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Test Case on Web Forum Libel October 20, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News, Social Media, Trends.
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If your banter is trivial enough, your privacy might just be safe when you post at Web forums. A London High Court ruling in a test case brought by a top football club has put anonymous users of online forums more prone to the threat of libel action. But the court protected the identities of seven people who posted, ruling that harmless football banter do not warrant an invasion of the authors’ privacy rights.

The guidance given in the court judgement is really interesting. It’s possibly the first case of online defamation in the UK where the right to privacy has outweighed the right to protect a reputation simply because defamatory comments were trivial. However, it also has wide implications for Website owners and anyone who runs Web forums, where users are free to vent their fury under the apparent protection of anonymity.

Sheffield FC this week won a High Court order forcing Neil Hargreaves, owner of the site at Owlstalk.com, to reveal the e-mail addresses of fans who posted allegedly defamatory comments under online pseudonyms. The struggling Championship club and its senior management team claim the forum comments have been harmful to the club and want to take libel action against the anonymous fans who wrote them.

The court has ordered Hargreaves to hand over the e-mail addresses of three users — whose postings it ruled “may reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour on the part of the claimants”. The judge said the directors’ right to take action to protect their reputation outweighs the right of the forum users to express themselves freely while maintaining their anonymity.

However, the judge refused to extend the order to eight other members of the site, whose posts he said “border on the trivial”, and were “plainly intended as jokes and unlikely to be taken seriously” or constituted “no more than saloon-bar moanings about the way in which the club is managed”.

Earlier this month, the football club chairman David Allen started libel proceedings over comments made on the message boards of BBC radio’s Five Live show. He’s seeking a court order to force the BBC to reveal the names of two users of a football forum. The comments have been removed, with entries on Sheffield only going as far back as September.

Posts on court rulings to reveal users identities:
The Pacnet vs Odex Saga

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Comments»

1. xztheericzx - November 5, 2007

i’m eric. joining a couple boards and looking
forward to participating. hehe unless i get
too distracted!

eric

2. khengze - December 16, 2007

Thanks for stopping by and welcome to the conversation!

3. GyncReuddyHenna - November 29, 2008

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How multitudinous in this forum are references Nautical port behind, disingenuous users?
Can I bank all the advice that there is?

4. migStaria - December 4, 2008

I am here at a forum newcomer. Until I read and deal with the forum.
Let’s learn!

5. eurocheguerse - May 20, 2009

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7. mikeqsp - May 23, 2010

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8. sazsermickskl - September 22, 2011

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9. Euro 2012 live stream - November 1, 2011

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