Online Defamation – Liability of Hosts Once on Notice

An English (and Welsh) court has held that Google, as owner of Blogger.com, is not liable for defamation posted to a blog, even after the subject of the defamation gave notice that the post was defamatory. Google passed on the allegation to the blogger, who told Google the original post was true. The court said that Google was not in a position to adjudicate between the two claims (lies vs truth). The plaintiff still had her remedy against the blogger(s).

The case is Davison v Habeeb et al (including Google), [2011] EWHC 3031 (QB). A story about the case is on outlaw.com.

Is this a reasonable application, or extension, of the ‘innocent disseminator’ defence, that the disseminator can remain innocent even with knowledge of the alleged defamation, if it acts reasonably in response to its knowledge?

Is it parallel to what has been proposed for copyright violations in Canada (though not currently in Bill C-31 SFAIK), a ‘notice and notice’ procedure?

Comments

  1. There is also interesting news about some Canadian jurisprudence on a similar topic titled Online defamation: injunctions against Google in Canada at http://www.ipblog.ca/?p=589 by my Field Law colleague Richard Stobbe.

    It is interesting that similar cases keep coming before the courts and responsibility for removing keeps going up the chain to the ISP, platform or server owner rather than the actual writer of the alleged defamatory statement.

  2. In the Davison case, the court refused to move the responsibility up the chain, and referred the plaintiff to her ability to go after the original posters. But it’s easy to understand the temptation: the ISP/search provider/portal is identifiable, servable and probably solvent, while the defamer may be none of these.

  3. In Davison V Habeeb the allegations on which the Judge ruled Google could not adjudicate on included the following:-

    i. Involvement in the illegal purchase of nuclear weapons with the UK Prime Minister David Cameron
    ii. Involvement with Ambassador Frances D Cook and David Lenegas of Lonrho Plc in Massive Fraud and corruption
    iii. Being involved in a conspiracy to financially destroy England and Wales
    iv. Being a “senior head of an international multi million pound organised Crime Network”
    v. Involvement in the Mull of Kintyre Chinook tragedy 1995
    vi. Rape
    vii. Torture
    viii. Assassination
    ix. Corporate Espionage
    x. Asset Stripping
    xii. Insider trading
    xiii. False Accounting
    xiv. International money Laundering
    xv. Conflict diamond smuggling
    xvi. Mineral theft rings
    xvii. Criminal Arms Dealing

    All of which the bloggers Peter Eyre and Gordon Bowden are still publishing on Google’s Blogger.com together with her address because of the Courts ruling.

    No reasonable man or woman could believe that all the allegations above were true and especially as the Claimant is a disabled litigant and a person of limited means.