A judge in the High court has ruled, in an internet freedom of expression case, that Google are not responsible for libellous or offensive comment.
He said that Google was like a wall where graffiti was strewn.
The owner of the wall could not be held responsible for what is written there and the same is true of Google.
Furthermore, the judge said that it could be argued that the owner of the wall could have the wall whitewashed every time graffiti is posted there. However, he doesn‘t have any responsibility to do so.
So, the person responsible would be the graffiti artist. It would be the same if someone posted libellous or offensive comment which came up on a Google website.
The judge said that you could no call the owner of the wall, by no stretch of the imagination, a publisher
Laws Governing Publishers
In a very important judgment. The judge, Mr Justice Eady, said that laws governing publishers did not bind Google.
That is very important, therefore, for all website owners, including ones like www.ITContractor.com which allows comment after the articles.
Former Conservative candidate and activist, Payam Tamiz brought the case This was after someone posted something on Google‘s Blogger.com saying that he was a drug dealer and a thief.
Payam Tamiz stood as a Conservative Candidate in local elections in Thanet in Kent last year.
Said www.ITContractor.com owner, Gerry McLaughlin, the fact that it was not even content on an another website that came up in Google search but the content was on one of Google‘s own websites is a major boost for those who own websites that allow people to post content.
‘This worry has been hanging over websites owners for a long time.
‘Now the court has decided that the person responsible for comments is, quite rightly, the person who made them. The court also decided that the website owners are not publishers as regards other people‘s comments are concerned. So, website owners can now sleep more safely in their beds at night’.
The judge said tha the was not surprised that Payam was upset. He was not surprised that he sued Google as the posts were anonymous. Tracing the commenters would be difficult.
He also slammed Google for taking so long to react to the complaint and remove the blogs.
However, they had no legal responsibility to do so.
Not a Publisher
Finally, said the Judge “I would be prepared to hold that it should not be regarded as a publisher, or even as one who authorises publication, under the established principles of common law. As I understand the evidence, its role, as a platform provider, is a purely passive one.
“I would rule that Google Inc is not liable at common law as a publisher.”
Carry on Posting
So, there you have it.
Website owners are not responsible for comment posted by someone else on one of their websites.
They cannot be viewed as publishers of those comments.
The responsibility lies with the person who posted the comments.
That surely is common sense and a great victory for Internet Freedom of Expression.
It seems that this judgment is definitive and is likely to be applied to the whole English speaking world.