Can message boards be liable for defamation?

Can message boards be liable for defamation?

Postby uberarcanist » Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:09 pm

On several online message boards, RU thankfully not being one of them, one can find patently false negative claims about individuals, the government, or agents of the government that can be considered defamation. Since message boards allow this information to be posted, I was thinking that they could be sued by the defamed parties. I don't think a disclaimer or a rule that "one cannot post defamatory information" would help in a situation like this, because defamation is harmful, regardless of disclaimers and rules are meaningless if they are not enforced.

Now, I could be wrong, but I did study for one year in law school so I do *kinda* know what I'm talking about. I haven't specifically researched this topic, but it did just pop in my head yesterday and I don't have a lot of free time anyways. What do y'all think?
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Postby Chorlton » Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:03 am

HMMM can the forums etc be held liable? Possibly, but law around the world varies so one could claim that it was 'fair comment'
However, companies have been sued

I point my honourable friend to:
http://www.cyber-rights.org/reports/demon.htm
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Postby uberarcanist » Wed Mar 26, 2008 3:06 pm

Well, it appears in Britain that you can, and you can recieve damages.

Looks like someone's in trouble! :lol:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.j ... vfn113.xml

And, now, let's see, on my side of the pond...

It appears that sadly, there is a lot of precedent against suing message boards for third-party comments here, if you'll look at the last few paragraphs in the section my link below points to. Nevertheless, at least in Britain and perhaps in other jurisdictions message boards can be sued for third party comments...it is a global marketplace of information out there, after all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... evelopment
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Postby Zep Tepi » Wed Mar 26, 2008 5:04 pm

A way for UK sites to avoid litigation is by having their site hosted in another country. Another way is to remove defamatory comments when requested to do so lol.

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Postby Chorlton » Wed Mar 26, 2008 5:37 pm

HAHA Nice one Zep

A lot of people are terrified of Libel, but theres usually an easy way round it.
Libel away, then when asked simply send in a basic apology. People pay more attention to the crap than they do the apology!
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Postby Shawnna » Thu Mar 27, 2008 12:26 am

I seem to recall someone pointing out that if the information presented is proven factual, it can't be libel.

:wink:

From this link

{emphasis mine}

What is Libel?

Libel and slander are legal claims for false statements of fact about a person that are printed, broadcast, spoken or otherwise communicated to others. Libel generally refers to statements or visual depictions in written or other permanent form, while slander refers to verbal statements and gestures. The term defamation is often used to encompass both libel and slander.

In order for the person about whom a statement is made to recover for libel, the false statement must be defamatory, meaning that it actually harms the reputation of the other person, as opposed to being merely insulting or offensive.

The statement(s) alleged to be defamatory must also have been published to at least one other person (other than the subject of the statement) and must be "of and concerning" the plaintiff. That is, those hearing or reading the statement must identify it specifically with the plaintiff.

The statement(s) alleged to be defamatory must also be a false statement of fact. That which is name-calling, hyperbole, or, however characterized, cannot be proven true or false, cannot be the subject of a libel or slander claim.

The defamatory statement must also have been made with fault. The extent of the fault depends primarily on the status of the plaintiff. Public figures, such as government officials, celebrities, well-known individuals, and people involved in specific public controversies, are required to prove actual malice, a legal term which means the defendant knew his statement was false or recklessly disregarded the truth or falsity of his statement. In most jurisdictions, private individuals must show only that the defendant was negligent: that he failed to act with due care in the situation.

A defamation claim -- at least one based upon statements about issues that are matters of public interest -- will likely fail if any of these elements are not met.

While on many of these issues the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, the primary defenses to a defamation claim are that the statements are true, are not statements of fact, or are privileged. Some defamatory statements may be protected by privilege, meaning that in certain circumstances the interest in communicating a statement outweighs the interest in protecting reputation. For example, most, if not all, jurisdictions recognize a privilege for fair reports of what is said, done, or published out of government and judicial proceedings, and for reports of misconduct to the proper authorities or to those who share a common interest (such as within a family or an association). Privileges do vary somewhat from state to state in their scope and requirements. They generally apply to non-media defendants to the same degree as to media defendants.

A successful defamation plaintiff may be entitled to a jury award of money damages. In some instances, the plaintiff may also be awarded punitive damages for particularly reprehensible conduct. The parties to the claim are entitled to appeal and cases are carefully scrutinized on review to protect the defendant’s First Amendment rights.

Defamation claims can be brought by living persons and entities that are considered "persons" under the law such as corporations, unincorporated businesses, associations and unions. Governmental entities cannot maintain actions for libel or slander, although a government official can bring suit for statements about the official individually.

Libel and slander are civil claims, but a handful of the states recognize an action for criminal defamation. Prosecutions are rare, especially against the media.

Under the American federal law system, defamation claims are largely governed by state law, subject to the limitations imposed by the free speech and press provisions of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court and other courts. While the elements of defamation are largely identical throughout the country, because defamation is a matter of state law there can be important differences on substantive and procedural details of the claim in the separate jurisdictions. And as a result of the application of First Amendment requirements to the claims, the specific elements as well as the burdens of proof with respect to those elements may be different depending upon whether the plaintiff is a public or private figure, whether the defendant is media or non-media, and the character of the statement(s) at issue.

More detailed information on libel and slander in each American jurisdiction, and in Canada and England, is available in our 50-State Survey of Media Libel Law. We also publish a 50-State Survey of Media Privacy and Related Law. Our 50-State Survey of Employment Libel and Privacy Law discusses these issues in the context of the workplace.

What is Slander?

Slander is a defamatory statement made verbally or by gesture. The same rules generally apply to both libel and slander, which are often grouped together under the term "defamation." In some jurisdictions, the statute of limitations for slander is shorter than for libel. See What is Libel?
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Postby uberarcanist » Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:38 am

Absolutely, Shawnna. Nevertheless, many, many posts you can find on message boards are not only false but demonstrably so. I believe there is a clear case for many of them being defamation.
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Postby Shawnna » Thu Mar 27, 2008 4:53 am

uberarcanist wrote:Absolutely, Shawnna. Nevertheless, many, many posts you can find on message boards are not only false but demonstrably so. I believe there is a clear case for many of them being defamation.


Perhaps you'd like to share some examples uber? I'd be curious to see what it is you're referring to.



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Postby uberarcanist » Thu Mar 27, 2008 5:06 am

Alright, fine, I'll plunk my money on the table. How about demonstrably false crap on OM or Godlike Productions that accuses the government of doing nothing to save the average Joe from the impending Nibiru apocalypse?
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Postby Chorlton » Thu Mar 27, 2008 9:07 am

uberarcanist wrote:Alright, fine, I'll plunk my money on the table. How about demonstrably false crap on OM or Godlike Productions that accuses the government of doing nothing to save the average Joe from the impending Nibiru apocalypse?


That isnt Libel or defamation as you cannot prove, incontrovertibly that Nibiru does not exist, therefore no one could be negligent.

Next ?
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Postby ryguy » Thu Mar 27, 2008 5:05 pm

It's a good question. I think boards who consistently demand fact-checking and strive to make sure all posts are supported with some form of documentation are protected, because there's a clear intent to tell the truth. Now, whether that truth makes someone look bad is unfortunate, but hardly defamation on the part of the forum, or news organization. O.J. Simpson couldn't sue the news reporters who were filming and reporting his silly white bronco escape attempt just because the truth made him look like an idiot.

Also, unfortunately, I think forums who post science-fiction nonsense, even though they use real names or entities (like the U.S. Government or CIA), are also protected because most people reading it acknowledge it's fiction - except for the sorry lot who believe in the tripe.

Imagine going in front of a judge and trying to explain why you think the action of this moron telling someone that you've visited a brothel on Planet Xenon will defame you or cause you any damage. He'll probably ask if you really think anyone in their right mind would even entertain that the idea could be true? The case can be made that more damage will come to the idiot who's telling the ridiculous story in the first place. :)

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Postby uberarcanist » Thu Mar 27, 2008 6:14 pm

Chorlton wrote:
That isnt Libel or defamation as you cannot prove, incontrovertibly that Nibiru does not exist, therefore no one could be negligent.

Next ?


I hope you're being sarcastic, Chorlton. Here's the way I look at it: when someone claims to have proof of something that there's no way they could have proof of, then they are lying.
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Postby Chorlton » Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:09 pm

But not in law.
If they (the loonies) claim that your US Government wont protect them, they will simply be asked to prove the existance of the threat. They wont be able to therefore there can be no Libel

You cant be accused of not protecting people from something that doesnt exist
Apart from which, Defamation or Libel, has to be demonstrably harmfull, so I proposed the same excuse exists.
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