Feeds

Websites forced to identify forum posters

It's the Law

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Application security programs and practises

UK Websites and ISPs could now be forced to disclose the details of anonymous forum posters, following a High Court ruling involving Totalise, the ISP, and investor sites Motley Fool UK and Interactive Investor International.

In a judgment from February, but appearing only now in the law reports, Totalise successfully obtained the identity of Zeddust, a poster of defamatory statement on the discussion boards of both sites.

Zeddust began posting his stuff on Motley Fool's site. Totalise's solicitors complained. Motley Fool removed Zeddust then banned him. Totalise demanded that Motley Fool reveal Zeddust's identity, a step too for for the Website, which refused.

Zeddust popped up again, this time on III's forum. And again Totalise sought the identity of the poster; III removed the posting but refused to name the author.

The court ruled that the Websites couldn't protect the identity of the forum posters, in the way that a newspaper can protect its sources, as no editorial control of the forums was exercised: ie. the Websites did not get the protection of section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act which says: "No court may require a person to disclose ...the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible, unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime."

Justice Robert Owen ruled "disclosure was necessary in the interests of justice."

So, as NeedTo Know, the estimable newsletter, points out: we now have the situation where UK sites can be sued for libel because they are publishers (the Laurence Godfrey/Demon case), and where they must reveal details of anonymous posters because they're not publishers.

And isn't Totalise, as an ISP, shooting itself in the foot with this action?

The ruling, according to Dai Davis, a consultant lawyer at UK legal firm Nabarro & Nathanson, is an application of old laws.

As regards copping to a charge of libel due to the acts of your users, there is good news on the horizon for ISPs/Websites. The government's e-commerce directive, required to be made law by 17 January 2002, will allow the defence that you can host information, as long as you didn't know it was illegal. You'd still have to grass up whoever made the posting, though.

The only way round that is not knowing who's posting to your site. "If you don't know, you can't be made to say," Davis says. ®

Related Links

The Times law report
NeedTo Know

Related Stories

The ISP liability Demon invoked again
UK Court rules on ISP liability

Demon libel loss could cripple Internet free speech

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN
Exec finds stream speed climbs when smuggled out
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.