Feeds

Mosley orgy judge blocks web forum libel writ onslaught

No damages for 'mere vulgar abuse'

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

The High Court judge who prompted sharp intakes of breath from newspaper editors when he awarded Max Mosley damages last week has now drawn sighs of relief from website owners, by blocking a web forum libel case that could have suffocated the flame wars that often rouse debate.

While the privacy-infringing report of Mosley's orgy cost The News of the World £60,000 and yesterday provoked further libel litigation, Nigel Smith, an unemployed shareholder activist, was told on Friday he is barred from pursuing tens of thousands of pounds from his online critics for "mere vulgar abuse". In his judgment, current top libel beak Mr Justice Eady acknowledged that forum users don't necessarily believe what they write, let alone think about it.

The court imposed a civil restraint order on Smith that bars him from suing posters at ADVFN, a leading investment forum. He had issued 37 sets of libel proceedings against individual users and ADVFN itself.

On Monday, Smith vowed to appeal against the order, claiming the court did not have the right to impose the order and that his human rights were violated by Mr Justice Eady. "He's made me a second class citizen," Smith told The Register, "It's one rule for the rich - Mosley - and one rule for the poor - me."

The case stems from Smith's involvement in a campaign to recover shareholders' investments from the alleged Langbar pump-and-dump fraud that rocked the Alternative Investment Market in 2005. Langbar's activities are currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (more info on the company's website here).

A firestorm was sparked on ADVFN in April last year when Smith, under the username "Anomalous", labelled fellow Langbar thread poster "Wiganer" a "fraudster". Smith alleged that Wiganer was falsely claiming Langbar compensation. Other members leapt to Wiganer's defence and slammed Smith for getting his facts wrong, branding him a "bully", "vindictive", "completely mad" and a "hypocrite".

Believing the statements against him were defamatory and actionable, Smith obtained a court order known as a Norwich Pharmacal that required ADVFN to disclose the IP addresses of the posters. News of the legal offensive spread on the ADVFN boards at the end of April 2007, attracting further criticism.

Commenting on the situation, ADVFN member Russell Watkins critcised Smith. Along with other who weighed into the debate, his name was added to Smith's Pharmacal order. Fearing a cripplingly expensive legal battle, Watkins settled out of court for £5,000 plus £1,000 costs. Following Friday's judgment, he says he now regrets that decision.

Fellow defendant, Michael Tuppen, who did not settle his case and gave evidence to Justice Eady in person, had written on ADVFN: "Anomolus and people like him (Godfrey vs Demon springs to mind) eventually destroy the internet with absurd actions like this. My wipers scraped better things from my car windscreen tonight than this dickhead Anomulus."

Our original report on the Godfrey vs Demon case in 2000 is here. The landmark decision established that forum providers can be liable for defamatory statements they host.

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Next page: Bootnote

More from The Register

next story
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
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
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.