Thursday, November 12, 2009

Black and White

I just noticed that our missing Eastcliff Richard has re-appeared or indeed been resurrected, once again, on his website, with a statement of apology which appears to have been drafted by a solicitor.

It comes in the week that I read and approved a blogging 'protocol' offering practical guidance for councillors and in the same period, that another local councillor, Mark Nottingham, (see Tony Flaig's comments on Big News Margate) appears to disregard the sensible recommendations and advice given in the same document.

Readers will be familiar with my views on blogging in regard to the risk it carries where the law governing defamation and libel is involved. I am directly responsible for what appears on this weblog and should someone leave a malicious and false, un-moderated comment, that person can be sued as well.

It's all a question of money and how deep the pockets of the offended party might be. The average man in the street can't afford the expensive solicitors fees involved in pursuing a libel action and the cost of a court order being placed on a company, such as Google, to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger. A big company can frequently afford to protect its reputation and pursue a blogger through the courts.

From what I understand, perhaps two of our local bloggers are reportedly the subject of litigation, as a consequence of publishing unsubstantiated rumours which might send any good libel lawyer pale. From experience of such things, I'm guessing that the cost of good specialist advice in such matters is close to £3,000, in simply dealing with a preliminary complaint; defending any potential libel action being an expensive business.

So maybe some good will come from this example, in that those who believe that blogging offers unrestrained and unaccountable free-speech, may now understand that it's an illusion and that blogging carries with it, the same responsibilities and consequences as any other form of self-expression.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wake up smell the coffee cheap lap tops phones free wifi no chance of finding them if they dont to be found ask google ?

Michael Roberts Internet libel victim's advocate said...

Anonymous free speech is a wonderful privilege and should be preserved at all costs, however like all good things is subject to abuse. The accessibility and efficiency of anonymous blogging technologies has caused this good thing to be abused in terrible ways.

I personally had my career, business, relationships, and job prospects utterly devastated by a relentless and malicious anonymous blogger. Although I have positively identified the individual, (who has been recently jailed for other charges and is awaiting trial in two states), the legacy of destruction persists. Thankfully I was able to turn adversity into opportunity and now earn an honest living assisting other victims of Internet libel; most people are not so fortunate.

I am passionately committed to improving community awareness of this problem. I like to use the following analogy to help “future victims” of Internet libel understand the anguish and destruction that comes with this 21st Century pandemic:

Imagine if you will a farmer who has had his or her livestock destroyed and barns and fields burned by a vandal; the devastating effect on his or her livelihood does not take Einstein to imagine. Whereas, a white-collar worker, fashion model or other intangible service provider who relies on his or her reputation to find new business, and for that matter keep existing business, can be as utterly destroyed as thoroughly as the farmer described above as a result of an effective internet smear campaign. The difference being that the community and judges can more easily relate to the farmer’s calamity.

An inherent weakness of anonymity is that it has less credibility when considered by intelligent and objective readers. Notwithstanding, there is a new dynamic with this problem of malicious anonymous blogging. Although the assertions and allegations may lack credibility, when it comes to the victim being considered for employment or contract awards, the person carrying out due diligence needs to look at the risks associated with attaching themselves to the victim. Although they may see through the diatribe, the decision maker needs to consider what their customers will think if they are not so sophisticated or objective.

Respectfully submitted, Michael Roberts. (Anonymous blogger bounty hunter)

http://www.Rexxfield.com
— Michael Roberts Internet libel victim’s advocate

Anonymous said...

Whilst I would in no way condone the kind of malicious smear campaigns that your 'Anonymous blogger bounty hunter' speaks of, it is clear that he is commenting from the US and presumably has no concept of the UK libel laws, which are, by pretty much common legal consensus, the most draconian in the world, which is why we have foreign billionaires lining up in the Strand to file vexatious law suits.

I take it you are not a libel lawyer either, Mr Moores, otherwise you would not be prejudicing a potential action which you clearly know very little about.

DrM. said...

No I'm not but I'm intimately familiar with the process from personal experience.

In this case we have no repetition of any libellous allegation or statement or indeed any direct reference to the matter in question. Rather less than might properly be reported in the press.

Anonymous said...

Then how do you explain your comment:

'...two of our local bloggers are reportedly the subject of litigation as a consequence of publishing unsubstantiated rumours which would send any good libel lawyer pale'?

I have seen no reports that these individuals are the subject of litigation. Nor have I seen any evidence that the rumours were 'unsubstantiated', or any 'good libel lawyers going pale'.

Any newspaper editor worth their salt would themsleves go pale at what you have written.

Speaking as someone who evidently has a much better understanding of the law in this area than you, I would urge caution. Bloggers have access to libel lawyers too.

Anonymous said...

You might like to know that I have taken a screen grab of this post should it be required as evidence by either of the bloggers you refer to.

DrM. said...

Thank you for your genuinely concerned advice 11:56.

Should any person or persons believe that this post refers to them in an innaccurate and or defamatory manner, then I would be happy to cooperate and edit or remove the content to avoid offense.

I'm easily contactable by email should such a request arise and he / she / they wish to give notice of such!

Anonymous said...

Michael Child has comments on his weblog at https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=3575321478441277410&postID=7298985660741998151

Richard Card said...

Sorry off thread ... re your interest in trophy dogs. My daughter has been visited by a Gypsy lady who knows her ASBO neighbours. The Gypsy (whose fighting cock was killed by my daughter's labrador after the ASBO neighbour released it over my daughter's fence) has supported complaint to the RSPCA, Housing Assn and Police that the ASBO family are dosing their Staffie on anabolic steroids they add to its feed. You may recall my daughter's labrador pounded the Staffie when the Staffie broke through the fence to get at my daughter's cat and labrador. The labrador was shaking the Staffie by the back of its head and throwing the Staffie (including against a brick wall) for about thirty minutes before the Staffie laid still. But then five minutes later the Staffie started again and the labrador pounded it again .. just shaking it by the scruff of the neck and throwing it into the ground or against the wall then again and again and again. Second time took the lab about 15 minutes of this to lay it still. Even then (and the Staffie had like a Parkinson tremor when I put it on lead and led it away ... the Staffie had recovered within five minutes and was wagging its tail and walking like a dream on the lead)

The labrador walks away as soon as the other dog submits. So that is a good thing. But the Staffie had sustained 45 minutes of continuous shaking and body slamming from the labrador. I don't think it had even a popped rib cartilage. The muscle on it is awesome.

And its recovery powers are incredible. Police have responded to the report I think. Appears the Staffie was maybe dosed on anabolics I will email you at council if there are developments.

So the anabolic aspect is a new worry for you ?

DrM. said...

Thank you 1:30, specualtion and detail on the same, also on Big News Margate in the comments section.

Peter Checksfield said...

Hopefully this will set a precident & prevent people from publishing false allegations (maybe TDC should consult their lawyers too, that should make a few bloggers stick to facts!).

We should ALL have comment moderation on at all times imo.

Anonymous said...

Luke Edwards has chimed in on the subject of libel on http://thanetwaves.blogspot.com/2009/11/libel-to-kill.html.