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digitalmars.D - [OT] Liability of Moderator

reply "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum or 
mailing list and would like to know to which extent the moderator 
or owner of the forum is liable, if some random troll or member 
puts libelous, insulting or racist remarks on the forum. I guess 
it depends mainly on national laws, but is there some general 
"I'm not responsible for anything"-clause in the terms & 
conditions that subscribers have to accept. If not, it would be 
very dangerous to set up a forum or mailing list. Thanks for any 
hints, links or tricks.
Oct 08 2013
next sibling parent Jonathan M Davis <jmdavisProg gmx.com> writes:
On Tuesday, October 08, 2013 12:34:21 Chris wrote:
 A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum or
 mailing list and would like to know to which extent the moderator
 or owner of the forum is liable, if some random troll or member
 puts libelous, insulting or racist remarks on the forum. I guess
 it depends mainly on national laws, but is there some general
 "I'm not responsible for anything"-clause in the terms &
 conditions that subscribers have to accept. If not, it would be
 very dangerous to set up a forum or mailing list. Thanks for any
 hints, links or tricks.

I don't know how anyone could ever be held liable for something someone else said on their forum, but it's not often that it makes sense when someone sues someone. - Jonathan M Davis
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 10:41:17 UTC, Jonathan M Davis 
wrote:
 On Tuesday, October 08, 2013 12:34:21 Chris wrote:
 A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum 
 or
 mailing list and would like to know to which extent the 
 moderator
 or owner of the forum is liable, if some random troll or member
 puts libelous, insulting or racist remarks on the forum. I 
 guess
 it depends mainly on national laws, but is there some general
 "I'm not responsible for anything"-clause in the terms &
 conditions that subscribers have to accept. If not, it would be
 very dangerous to set up a forum or mailing list. Thanks for 
 any
 hints, links or tricks.

I don't know how anyone could ever be held liable for something someone else said on their forum, but it's not often that it makes sense when someone sues someone. - Jonathan M Davis

If someone claims that the moderator didn't remove an insulting or libelous post on the forum. I guess a mailing list is safer, because it is not public in the sense that it's out there on the Web. It consists of private email messages and the author takes responsibility for what he writes (it's like a signed letter in a way).
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent reply "Dicebot" <public dicebot.lv> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 10:34:23 UTC, Chris wrote:
 A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum 
 or mailing list and would like to know to which extent the 
 moderator or owner of the forum is liable, if some random troll 
 or member puts libelous, insulting or racist remarks on the 
 forum. I guess it depends mainly on national laws, but is there 
 some general "I'm not responsible for anything"-clause in the 
 terms & conditions that subscribers have to accept. If not, it 
 would be very dangerous to set up a forum or mailing list. 
 Thanks for any hints, links or tricks.

Completely up to national laws and their actual enforcement. And terms of service that go against local laws never have any juridical power.
Oct 08 2013
parent reply Joseph Rushton Wakeling <joseph.wakeling webdrake.net> writes:
On 08/10/13 13:38, Chris wrote:
 Yep, I thought so too. However, I wonder if there is something that saves the
 moderator's a**e, else we wouldn't have so many forums all over the world.
There
 are countries (like GB and the Republic of Ireland) that have very strict libel
 laws. Imagine the comments under newspaper articles, if you could take the
 newspaper to court for the bullsh*t some people write (libelous, racist,
 insulting), there would be an avalanche of lawsuits (if it's just to get some
 money).

Which is why British newspapers at least are quite strict about moderating comment threads on their websites. You also have contempt-of-court law to contend with -- if an article is about an ongoing legal case, for example, it is typical for comment threads to be turned off or at least pre-moderated. British libel law would be hard pressed to pursue somebody with no UK presence who published a website hosted outside of the UK, although there have been cases where the UK arm of a publisher was targeted with a libel lawsuit for a book published and theoretically only distributed abroad. It's sufficient for even one copy of the book to be sold to a UK buyer by a company like Amazon.
Oct 08 2013
parent reply Joseph Rushton Wakeling <joseph.wakeling webdrake.net> writes:
On 08/10/13 15:56, Chris wrote:
 I see. A private person wouldn't possibly be able to moderate the forum all the
 time. However, mailing lists (a forum via email) might be a different beast
 altogether, because everyone is writing personal email messages that are not
 public in the same way this forum is. So if someone writes "I think that Mr.
XYZ
 is a **** and a ****! **** you!", nobody could possibly sue the one who founded
 the email forum for these comments?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, get your own legal advice, etc. etc. (Should have written that in my previous email too. See what a minefield this international legal thing is?:-) Generally speaking it seems like the typical experience in the UK is that if you have the means for people to report abusive or libellous material posted on your forum, and you are responsive to such reports, then it is very unlikely that any legal suit will be coming your way. But that is "unlikely", not "impossible". Someone who had a bone to pick with you could probably still launch suit. In some circumstances I wouldn't bet against that happening if somebody's goal was to shut down a website.
Oct 08 2013
next sibling parent Walter Bright <newshound2 digitalmars.com> writes:
On 10/8/2013 2:24 PM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
 Heck, it's a common, well-established tactic for corporations.

It's hardly just for corporations. Nuisance lawsuits are commonly filed by individuals, too. Pretty much all corporations above a certain size have a continuous stream of them filed against them by people hoping the corp will find it cheaper to settle than to fight & win.
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling parent Walter Bright <newshound2 digitalmars.com> writes:
On 10/8/2013 2:50 PM, Joseph Rushton Wakeling wrote:
 So, just to be careful, disclaimer again: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal
 advice.

Isn't it sad that we feel compelled to have to insert such disclaimers?
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 11:28:12 UTC, Dicebot wrote:
 On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 10:34:23 UTC, Chris wrote:
 A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum 
 or mailing list and would like to know to which extent the 
 moderator or owner of the forum is liable, if some random 
 troll or member puts libelous, insulting or racist remarks on 
 the forum. I guess it depends mainly on national laws, but is 
 there some general "I'm not responsible for anything"-clause 
 in the terms & conditions that subscribers have to accept. If 
 not, it would be very dangerous to set up a forum or mailing 
 list. Thanks for any hints, links or tricks.

Completely up to national laws and their actual enforcement. And terms of service that go against local laws never have any juridical power.

Yep, I thought so too. However, I wonder if there is something that saves the moderator's a**e, else we wouldn't have so many forums all over the world. There are countries (like GB and the Republic of Ireland) that have very strict libel laws. Imagine the comments under newspaper articles, if you could take the newspaper to court for the bullsh*t some people write (libelous, racist, insulting), there would be an avalanche of lawsuits (if it's just to get some money).
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 13:12:19 UTC, Joseph Rushton 
Wakeling wrote:
 On 08/10/13 13:38, Chris wrote:
 Yep, I thought so too. However, I wonder if there is something 
 that saves the
 moderator's a**e, else we wouldn't have so many forums all 
 over the world. There
 are countries (like GB and the Republic of Ireland) that have 
 very strict libel
 laws. Imagine the comments under newspaper articles, if you 
 could take the
 newspaper to court for the bullsh*t some people write 
 (libelous, racist,
 insulting), there would be an avalanche of lawsuits (if it's 
 just to get some
 money).

Which is why British newspapers at least are quite strict about moderating comment threads on their websites. You also have contempt-of-court law to contend with -- if an article is about an ongoing legal case, for example, it is typical for comment threads to be turned off or at least pre-moderated. British libel law would be hard pressed to pursue somebody with no UK presence who published a website hosted outside of the UK, although there have been cases where the UK arm of a publisher was targeted with a libel lawsuit for a book published and theoretically only distributed abroad. It's sufficient for even one copy of the book to be sold to a UK buyer by a company like Amazon.

I see. A private person wouldn't possibly be able to moderate the forum all the time. However, mailing lists (a forum via email) might be a different beast altogether, because everyone is writing personal email messages that are not public in the same way this forum is. So if someone writes "I think that Mr. XYZ is a **** and a ****! **** you!", nobody could possibly sue the one who founded the email forum for these comments?
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 15:42:25 UTC, Joseph Rushton 
Wakeling wrote:
 On 08/10/13 15:56, Chris wrote:
 I see. A private person wouldn't possibly be able to moderate 
 the forum all the
 time. However, mailing lists (a forum via email) might be a 
 different beast
 altogether, because everyone is writing personal email 
 messages that are not
 public in the same way this forum is. So if someone writes "I 
 think that Mr. XYZ
 is a **** and a ****! **** you!", nobody could possibly sue 
 the one who founded
 the email forum for these comments?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, get your own legal advice, etc. etc. (Should have written that in my previous email too. See what a minefield this international legal thing is?:-) Generally speaking it seems like the typical experience in the UK is that if you have the means for people to report abusive or libellous material posted on your forum, and you are responsive to such reports, then it is very unlikely that any legal suit will be coming your way. But that is "unlikely", not "impossible". Someone who had a bone to pick with you could probably still launch suit. In some circumstances I wouldn't bet against that happening if somebody's goal was to shut down a website.

Well, well, it's a sad story. "Bloggers are also affected. The Society of Homeopaths, for example, recently took offence at something written by Andy Lewis on his Quackometer website. Lewis was prepared to stand firm over his comments but, rather than sue him, the society instead threatened the web-hosting company, which promptly took down his blog." http://www.digitalrights.ie/2010/02/28/irish-defamation-law-still-inadequate-for-internet/
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent reply Brad Roberts <braddr puremagic.com> writes:
On 10/8/13 3:34 AM, Chris wrote:
 A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum or mailing list
and would like to know
 to which extent the moderator or owner of the forum is liable, if some random
troll or member puts
 libelous, insulting or racist remarks on the forum. I guess it depends mainly
on national laws, but
 is there some general "I'm not responsible for anything"-clause in the terms &
conditions that
 subscribers have to accept. If not, it would be very dangerous to set up a
forum or mailing list.
 Thanks for any hints, links or tricks.

If you want a legal opinion, ask a lawyer. Seriously.
Oct 08 2013
parent reply Walter Bright <newshound2 digitalmars.com> writes:
On 10/8/2013 1:38 PM, Chris wrote:
 Was just wondering if anyone on this forum has any experience with these
things.
 After a little bit of research I've come to the conclusion that it's a
 minefield. The old Windows slogan applies: Click and pray!

 PS Ask a lawyer? You're kidding. Seriously.

The bottom line is anyone can sue you for anything, at least in the US, regardless of any merits of the case. There is nothing you can do to guarantee this will not happen. But I do suggest you get business liability insurance. That's what it's for, and ask your agent the hard questions as to what it does / does not cover, and be sure and get that in writing. I also suggest that you, as a forum operator, make a reasonable effort to remove libelous/abusive/illegal posts. It's the right thing to do, regardless of whether you'd get sued or not. And while everyone in the US has free speech rights, as a non-government forum operator, you are under no obligation to provide anyone with a forum to say things you don't agree with on your nickel. As for legal advice, such advice on the internet is worth what you paid for it - nothing. Brad's right in that if you want real legal advice, hire a lawyer.
Oct 08 2013
parent Walter Bright <newshound2 digitalmars.com> writes:
On 10/9/2013 2:01 AM, Chris wrote:
 The question always remains what is libelous or abusive?

It's usually pretty obvious if you apply common sense. I also suggest simply googling for the what libel and slander actually are (many people have false assumptions about that).
 You're right. But where I live it is sometimes better to read the whole
 legislation and court rulings yourself than to ask a lawyer. I've heard of
cases
 where lawyers knew less about the current legislation than their clients.

Lawyers vary enormously in the quality of their advice. They're a lot like programmers in that regard :-)
Oct 09 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 19:54:40 UTC, Brad Roberts wrote:
 On 10/8/13 3:34 AM, Chris wrote:
 A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum 
 or mailing list and would like to know
 to which extent the moderator or owner of the forum is liable, 
 if some random troll or member puts
 libelous, insulting or racist remarks on the forum. I guess it 
 depends mainly on national laws, but
 is there some general "I'm not responsible for 
 anything"-clause in the terms & conditions that
 subscribers have to accept. If not, it would be very dangerous 
 to set up a forum or mailing list.
 Thanks for any hints, links or tricks.

If you want a legal opinion, ask a lawyer. Seriously.

Was just wondering if anyone on this forum has any experience with these things. After a little bit of research I've come to the conclusion that it's a minefield. The old Windows slogan applies: Click and pray! PS Ask a lawyer? You're kidding. Seriously.
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent Nick Sabalausky <SeeWebsiteToContactMe semitwist.com> writes:
On Tue, 08 Oct 2013 17:42:20 +0200
Joseph Rushton Wakeling <joseph.wakeling webdrake.net> wrote:
 
 But that is "unlikely", not "impossible".  Someone who had a bone to
 pick with you could probably still launch suit.  In some
 circumstances I wouldn't bet against that happening if somebody's
 goal was to shut down a website.

Yea, I don't know if it's any different in other countries, but here in the US anyone with money can sue anyone else (with or without money) for anything and cause them boatloads of trouble *regardless* of whether the case even has any merit at all (IANAL, of course). Heck, it's a common, well-established tactic for corporations. Personally, I wouldn't worry so much about it because there really isn't *anything* you can do to *truly* "cover your ass" (Haters gonna hate...and sue, merit or not), all you can ever really do is make a best-faith effort. Obviously don't take this as true legal advice, just one random curmudgeon's opinion ;)
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Joseph Rushton Wakeling" <joseph.wakeling webdrake.net> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 21:24:07 UTC, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
 Obviously don't take this as true legal advice, just one
 random curmudgeon's opinion ;)

Indeed. In the UK I'd like to see the lawsuit that would reach court for "This bloke on the internet told me it was like this and he turned out to be wrong!" In the US ... not so sure. :-P So, just to be careful, disclaimer again: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "deadalnix" <deadalnix gmail.com> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 10:34:23 UTC, Chris wrote:
 A short OT question: A friend of mine wants to set up a forum 
 or mailing list and would like to know to which extent the 
 moderator or owner of the forum is liable, if some random troll 
 or member puts libelous, insulting or racist remarks on the 
 forum. I guess it depends mainly on national laws, but is there 
 some general "I'm not responsible for anything"-clause in the 
 terms & conditions that subscribers have to accept. If not, it 
 would be very dangerous to set up a forum or mailing list. 
 Thanks for any hints, links or tricks.

It is country dependant. In France the host is responsible if he/she has been warned about the content and choose not to react. Otherwise, only the content producer is responsible.
Oct 08 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
On Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 22:27:27 UTC, Walter Bright wrote:
 On 10/8/2013 1:38 PM, Chris wrote:
 Was just wondering if anyone on this forum has any experience 
 with these things.
 After a little bit of research I've come to the conclusion 
 that it's a
 minefield. The old Windows slogan applies: Click and pray!

 PS Ask a lawyer? You're kidding. Seriously.

The bottom line is anyone can sue you for anything, at least in the US, regardless of any merits of the case. There is nothing you can do to guarantee this will not happen. But I do suggest you get business liability insurance. That's what it's for, and ask your agent the hard questions as to what it does / does not cover, and be sure and get that in writing.

This makes perfect sense. Thanks for the advice.
 I also suggest that you, as a forum operator, make a reasonable 
 effort to remove libelous/abusive/illegal posts. It's the right 
 thing to do, regardless of whether you'd get sued or not. And 
 while everyone in the US has free speech rights, as a 
 non-government forum operator, you are under no obligation to 
 provide anyone with a forum to say things you don't agree with 
 on your nickel.

The question always remains what is libelous or abusive?
 As for legal advice, such advice on the internet is worth what 
 you paid for it - nothing. Brad's right in that if you want 
 real legal advice, hire a lawyer.

You're right. But where I live it is sometimes better to read the whole legislation and court rulings yourself than to ask a lawyer. I've heard of cases where lawyers knew less about the current legislation than their clients.
Oct 09 2013
prev sibling next sibling parent "Chris" <wendlec tcd.ie> writes:
On Wednesday, 9 October 2013 at 18:15:37 UTC, Walter Bright wrote:
 On 10/9/2013 2:01 AM, Chris wrote:
 The question always remains what is libelous or abusive?

It's usually pretty obvious if you apply common sense. I also suggest simply googling for the what libel and slander actually are (many people have false assumptions about that).

Yes and no. I know people who have taken or threatened to take legal action against others because they said something like "I don't think this is the best way to say or do it. I propose ..." Of course they will never succeed, but the hassle of having to deal with letters from solicitors is just annoying. I've seen the most ridiculous cases, things you couldn't make up. The problem is that unlike in the U.S. in the Republic of Ireland and GB the libel law is ridiculously overprotective. I do wonder how journalists cope with it. Mind you, that you apply common sense does not mean that others do so too.
 Lawyers vary enormously in the quality of their advice. They're 
 a lot like programmers in that regard :-)

In fairness, it's not only the lawyers, it's also the legislation that is often highly ambiguous. So lawyer A tells you something, and lawyer B will tell you something completely different. That's why it's best to check out court rulings and the different interpretations judges give the law in question. Else you pay $500 and all you know is "it might but it might not be the case". Anyway, it's got nothing to do with D.
Oct 10 2013
prev sibling parent "Kagamin" <spam here.lot> writes:
On Thursday, 10 October 2013 at 09:22:52 UTC, Chris wrote:
 Yes and no. I know people who have taken or threatened to take 
 legal action against others because they said something like "I 
 don't think this is the best way to say or do it. I propose 
 ..." Of course they will never succeed, but the hassle of 
 having to deal with letters from solicitors is just annoying. 
 I've seen the most ridiculous cases, things you couldn't make 
 up. The problem is that unlike in the U.S. in the Republic of 
 Ireland and GB the libel law is ridiculously overprotective. I 
 do wonder how journalists cope with it.

The moderator can claim he lives in China, good luck to get him in court.
Oct 11 2013