Tuesday, October 23, 2007


From the BBC, regular columnist Bill Thompson outlines new extensions to libel laws provoked by anonymous comments left on websites. In Kicking off the debate about free speech, he writes:
Three Sheffield Wednesday supporters who posted anonymous abusive comments on the "Owlstalk" website will be staring into their cornflakes this morning as they wonder whether they will soon be receiving a libel writ in the post.

The football club has obtained an order from the High Court requiring the site's administrators to hand over the e-mail addresses of the three fans.

Although the posters used pseudonyms and may have thought that they were safe from any legal action, they may now be tracked down after deputy Judge Richard Parkes agreed that their posts "may reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour on the part of the claimants.

This leaves them open to proceedings for libel, so the judge has told site owner Neil Hargreaves to reveal their e-mail addresses despite the site's privacy policy.

Of course nobody should assume that user names offer any real anonymity or protection against legal action against a site's host, whether here or in China, so if the three people involved didn't go to the trouble of registering non-UK addresses just to use on Owlstalk their real names will soon be known to the lawyers acting for the directors.
Read on.

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