More on social media and defamation

Not surprisingly the Joe Karam defamation case victory has initiated comment online. See Karam defamation case a warning to blogs?  from yesterday.

There were some interesting reactions to this at The Standard yesterday.

More views on the Karam versus Parker and Purkiss defamation case:

The Paepae: Defamation via Facebook and ‘a private website’

This defamation case should be a shot across the bows of various internet wide-boys who think ‘defence of truth’ or ‘opinion honestly held’ is some kind of magic elixir or Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s worth noting the oh-so-easy-to-reach-for-until-you’re-tested ‘truth defence’ in this case was abandoned during the trial.

Occasional Erudite: The Joe Karam defamation case – what does it mean for blogs and social media?

To my mind though, the way in which Courtney J has applied the threshold test under which honest opinion can be relied upon doesn’t necessarily take into account the way that blogs and social media sites function.

That’s why I’m slightly uncomfortable with the judgment. A comment on a blog post, when viewed in isolation or as part of the individual blog post and the thread of comments that follow, may not appear to have a factual basis. However, when viewed as part of a blogger or commentator’s history of blogging or commenting, may have a factual basis that is well known to others who frequent the blog.

That’s not to say that the defendants in Mr Karam’s defamation suit don’t richly deserve to have been found to have defamed Mr Karam. My concern is whether the case sets a precedent that doesn’t necessarily fit with the way that blogs and social media actually operate.

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2 Comments

  1. That’s why I’m slightly uncomfortable with the judgment. A comment on a blog post, when viewed in isolation or as part of the individual blog post and the thread of comments that follow, may not appear to have a factual basis. However, when viewed as part of a blogger or commentator’s history of blogging or commenting, may have a factual basis that is well known to others who frequent the blog.

    That is a major reason why I’ve been steadily providing more access to people’s previous comments as I have time to code them. It is something that I have pretty complete access to on the backend. There is no real reason that it can’t be available over the theme on the front end. I’ll be extending that and other search based systems for walking back through the back catalogue of posts and comments over this nice long weekend.

    I haven’t yet read that discussion yesterday on OpenMike (it was a really busy day at work for various reasons), but I have to sweep back through today.

    But overall I’m pretty comfortable with the decision against our existing moderation policies in terms of this decision. When expressing an opinion with a factual basis to them it is preferable and mostly mandatory (ie if the site could have legal issues) that people link or state a plausible1 source of the facts that back or formed it. The opinion may be a complete steaming dungheap, but at least people can point out harshly the flaws in their opinion.

    And for that matter with the earlier Wishart decision that Peter Aranyi at PaePae also linked to – in particular the banning. It is why we have the general behavioural reasons for banning written down and that I usually to refer to them whilst banning people for their behaviour. Of course that doesn’t stop those banned for concocting their own lies about why they got banned does it? But that is what the courts are for.

    1. Of course there are sources of “fact” that are quite unacceptable. For instance it isn’t hard to dig back through Cameron Slater’s posts and find assertions of “fact” that are simple lies with no basis in reality – that in fact he simply made up. That is why even thinking of him as a journalist is an appalling travesty. Breaking stories isn’t the only characteristic required of a journalist.

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