Pathetic, immature Smith, who lists his interests as shooting people on his yahoo profile moaned “I just didn’t see why she should be allowed to get away with it”.
Tracy Williams, a college lecturer from Oldham, was ordered by a high court judge to pay £10,000 in damages, as well as lardy Keith-Smith’s £7,200 costs, after an argument in which she initially labelled him a “lard brain” before going on to accuse him of being a “Nazi”, a “racist bigot” and a “nonce” culimating with her claiming he was on the sex offender’s registar and calling his wife a prostitute.
One has to wondor why she wasn’t simply banned from the chat rooom in question as most chat room mods would have only been quick to do, however a court injunction forced the owners of the chat room to reveal Willaims’ details as she was posting anonymously.
Whilst her remarks were extreme and probably a touch out of order this could have devastating consequences for all chat rooms hosts and users as this case sees a precedent in the application of UK libel laws. Whilst Caroline Keane, a media lawyer has said “You can’t say this is something that should just be allowed to carry on. I don’t think it is going to open any floodgates; it’s a quite sensible application of the law,” Mark Stephens, head of media law at Finer Stephens Innocent, said the case should trigger a wider debate about whether the libel law was best suited to deal with such cases.
Whilst it could be argued that politically nonenetity Smith had been libelled the remarks were made on a chat room with a limited readership. This room in question only has around a 100 members, most of whom would hopefully be intelligent enough to work out what was going on for themselves.
With more and more communication taking place on line, this is akin to having lawyers sitting and monitoring every conversation anyone might have anywhere, anytime, waiting to pounce should anyone be defamed. Imagine the same scenario down the pub…
Lively and occasionally spiky debate has long been a feature of message boards and chat rooms, just as it in real life. To suggest that everyone involved should think about the legal implications of every comment, remark, criticism or indeed insult will result in a neuturing of this form of communication, forcing chat rooms mods to be obliged to censor half of the comments made.
In the US New Jersey state legislature is already considering a bill that would disallow anonymous members on forums. (link)
When writing for publications or even blogs most would think before embarking on a campaign of libel, chat rooms are different and should reflect conversation as it is in real life with all it’s colour, inaccuracies, humour and occasional spite.
Meanwhile greedy lawyers are sure to be wetting themselves, as one wag has commented on lively message boards urban 75 “Wonder if we’ll now see ‘no win no fee’ lawyers hanging out on discussion boards ready to make an offer soon as anyone’s the victim of a bit of abuse.”
update … Fat boy speaks