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Babycare guru fires back at Mumsnet

Denies she is trying to close the site

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Childcare guru Gina Ford says she is not seeking to close down the Mumsnet website, but has merely acted to defend herself from what she describes as a "long-running campaign by which Mumsnet published very serious and offensive libels about me".

She has threatened to issue a writ in the High Court if the site does not deal with some of the messages which she says are being posted in its forums.

Ford objected to comments that had been posted on the Mumsnet bulletin boards. She says her initial attempts to get Mumsnet to remove the offensive posts were not acknowledged, and that she had no choice but to involve her lawyers.

In a statement hosted by Mumsnet, and posted on her own site, Ford says:

"As a last resort, I instructed my solicitors to write to the company that hosts the Mumsnet website and they were informed of their legal liability for the content of the Mumsnet website.

"It is true that my solicitors asked for the Mumsnet website to be removed but as the host persuaded Mumsnet to delete the publication, it was, of course, not necessary to pursue the matter further.

"Any suggestion that I am trying to close down the Mumsnet website is completely untrue."

She goes on:

"Mumsnet continues to refuse to cease publishing these very serious libels or to accept its responsibilities as an internet publisher.

"I have therefore been advised by my solicitors to consider issuing a writ in the High Court in London for libel - though I very much hope this will not be necessary."

Legal eagles at OUT-LAW.com explain that Ford has several options available to her, should she want to pursue the action.

"She has a choice, she can take action against Mumsnet, or against the people who posted the comments," says Struan Robertson, site editor and former corporate lawyer.

Robertson explains that although it is for a court to decide whether or not a statement is defamatory, the generally accepted legal definition is that the statement must be false, and that it must "lower the person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society".

"Most defamatory material on the web goes unnoticed, and it is rare that threats of litigation actually turn into lawsuits - defamation cases are very expensive. Generally, an apology will do [to settle these sorts of complaints]," he notes.

"She could seek an order forcing the site to reveal the identity of the individual who made the posting. Often the individual person is not worth pursuing as they won't have much money, but it might be a point of principle."

Mumsnet's ISP says that it was contacted just hours after the site was asked to remove offensive postings, and was asked to shut the site down.

David Adams, MD of DSC, said: "On investigation I found that Mumsnet had already removed two posts and told me they were in the process of removing the third. DSC responded that shutting down Mumsnet would be a disproportionate response."

Mumsnet has also issued a statement which it has printed below Ford's on its site.

It says: "In the very first communication we received from Gina Ford and in all subsequent ones from her solicitors we have consistently said we would happy to remove all the posts that breached Mumsnet's abuse policy and we also offered to meet or mediate her concerns on several occasions, but were rebuffed." ®

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