The damned defences of internet monitoring

When George Robertson launched his defamation case against The Sunday Herald last year, web editors across the country thought it might at last shed some light on one of their trickiest dilemmas.

For years they had wondered about the safest way to deal with readers posting comments to their web sites.

Should they monitor them closely to ensure nothing legally contentious is posted? If they do this, they are arguably acting as “editors”, making them liable if anything defamatory does get through.

Or should they take a completely hands-off approach? Many opt for this, on the assumption that it means they are “innocent disseminators of information”.

Indeed, that would have formed a central plank of the Herald’s defence.

The danger, though, is that a judge would take a dim view of what might be perceived as a lack of care.

But now Robertson has settled out of court, for £25,000 – considerably less than the £200,000 he originally claimed. Which leaves nobody any the wiser. To monitor or not to monitor? Until the position is clarified, we still run the risk of being damned

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