Court ruling ‘bad news’ for internet companies


Author: Bede McCarthy
Coverage Type: reporting
Location:
High Court, London, WC2A 2LL, United Kingdom

The UK High Court has said Google and its peers can be held responsible for defamatory comments posted on their websites in a ruling described as “bad news” for internet companies.

The judgment, made in response to a defamation claim appeal, means companies which receive complaints about defamatory or offensive content on their websites could have to spend more in order to deal with them in a timely manner. The complaint relates to eight comments posted on a blog titled “London Muslim”, which was hosted by Google’s free Blogger service. Payam Tamiz was seeking a libel claim against Google over the comments, which were posted in April 2011 and removed in August 2011 by the blog owner after a complaint was made via Google. Although Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Sullivan agreed with the original ruling that Google was not a primary or secondary publisher of the content it hosted, they said it was “at least arguable that some point after notification Google became liable for continued publication of the material.” The Lords Justice likened the situation to a 1930s court case in which a golf club was held responsible for defamatory material left on its noticeboard because it failed to remove it after it was notified.

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