Friday, March 07, 2008

Bloggers Hail Victory For Freedom Of Speech

by Isle of Thanet Gazunder Legal Correspondent Judith Prudence

Anonymous bloggers across the island are celebrating after Thanet Life author Dr Simon Moores admitted an embarrassing defeat at the hands of internet giant Google.

Conservative councillor Moores claims that Google effectively sent him away with the proverbial flea in his ear after he demanded allegedly defamatory material be removed from Blogger, which is owned by the US firm. Writing in the online journal silicon.com he says:

I asked Google to remove the offending material. Google, which is also a UK limited company, answered:

Blogger.com and Blogspot.com are US sites regulated by US law. Blogger is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content. We allow our users to create blogs, but we don't make any claims about the content of these pages. We strongly believe in freedom of expression, even if a blog contains unappealing or distasteful content or presents unpopular viewpoints.

Given these facts, and pursuant with section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, Blogger does not remove allegedly defamatory, libellous or slanderous material from Blogger.com or Blogspot.com.


Moores claims he had received a 'constant flow of insults and defamation' and that his family had been abused in the street 'by complete strangers'. He continues:

I am told that even a court order from a British judge is not sufficient for Google to change its mind. So we now appear to have a situation in the UK where our own laws governing defamation, decency, libel and the simple test and protection of truth are governed by the more generous interpretation provided by the US legal system.

So if I made defamatory, racist or homophobic remarks about an MP on silicon.com, I could be sued. But if I'm an anonymous blogger, it is acceptable because I'm apparently protected by US rather than UK law.


One anonymous blogger who did not wish to be named told the Gazunder: 'We have yet to be provided with any proof or corroboration by Councillor Moores of the defamation he alleges, or that he has served any papers on anyone, either through a court of law, or via Google. He has not even had the courtesy to name any anonymous blog sites he believes he has a problem with. It appears, however, that Google has taken a sensible view and stood up for good old-fashioned values of freedom of speech.'

Another anonymous Thanet blogger added: 'On a purely common sense basis, if Moores had a problem with anything that had been said he could ask for an apology, which has been the way these things have been sorted out in the past, or posted a defence on his own blog. By not even naming names he appears to have gone to extraordinary lengths to clamp down on all Thanet bloggers. Google seem to have realised that healthy criticism of a local councillor and his policies amounts to fair comment and that 'fishing expeditions' to uncover the identity of an anonymous blogger or remove material under unproven allegations of defamation should be treated with the contempt they deserve.'

Click here for full text of Dr Simon Moores article on silicon.com
Click here for Blogger policy on alleged defamation

12 comments:

DrMoores said...

I'm sorry to dissapoint you ECR but I'm hardly likely to have published this column if I had suffered a so-called "defeat" and it simply reflects the fact that this small matter of law has escalated to a level at Westminster which is outside your knowledge. In fact, it was only published by me because Google was no longer required for the purposes involved but simply illustrated a legal problem. You'll note the solicitor's comment, I'm sure. Only the best of course!

Anonymous said...

Is any of this 'news'? Seems more like an organ for jabbing at people, to me!
I think I liked you better when you were amusing and witty, rather than publishing a bitter and twisted hate campaign.
Will we be getting our roving, probing and penetrating Dick back any time soon?

Anonymous said...

I take your point anon. 9:04, but Dr Moores certainly seems to think this is news and as you can see from his comment above he's not got over having a jab at people himself.

Would you care to make a specific allegation, Doc, or present us with proof of any of this legal mullarkey of which you speak? You know, stuff like court records, dates, times, all the usual things a journalist other than the local hacks would demand to stand up your story?

I for one would be delighted to dedicate the front page of this organ to your quest if you would care to email me the papers. After all, balance is what makes a good newspaper, eh?

ECR

Lay-Person said...

Fascinating stuff. I'm no Lawyer but have always found the topic interesting. If 'Blogger is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content' then we are bound to accept that as being the situation as it currently stands. The provision of material that crosses international borders has been an issue ever since the internet came into popular being and Blogger's response c/o Google, should perhaps not be a suprise especially to those in the industry. This issue isn't just about the 'Doc' though the events surrounding the issues he has had have been useful to highlight the perceived problem. Merely as a lay-person I agree the full picture as a case study is not so easy to fathom, i.e. what was said by whom etc. Thats one for the 'Doc' I guess!

Anonymous said...

leave moores alone and i am sure he will dig a big enough hole for himself and his substancial ego to disappear in

Kathy said...

I'm with anon 9.04

Anonymous said...

How nice to see Simon Moores out of his bunker and now talking directly with ECR.Almost like old times. Chaps . go one stage further and open up your blogs again and let normal service, banter, bluntness, discord and dissection of academic qualifications resume!

Anonymous said...

I think Anon ll.32 has offered some good advice. There is no point in goading Dr Moores. Bloggers locally should move on to discuss real issues and stop giving him more publicity - however much it may stick in the throat to let him get away with his continued self-publicising antics.

If Dr Moores has substance and evidence to support the claims he has made in the press about defamatory remarks and abuse damaging his business and family, then he will no doubt produce it at some point. No-one locally seems to know what he is talking about, or to have seen any examples or instances ever, but let's leave the ball in the Doc's court.

Equally, if there is substance behind the threats and intimidatory posts he has been lodging on various blogs, then all will become clear. Yes, the climate he and his supporters have created is obnoxious, but so be it.

We should move on and ignore him and them.

Matt B said...

Victory or defeat are, in these cases, largely a mater of frame of reference.

Google/Blogger are famed for take-downs with little prompting. Do you remember Charlotte Wyatt - the little girl with the "do not resuscitate order"? For no-crime-at-all someone convinced Google to remove that blog. The result was more publicity than the Wyatt's could have hoped for.

Framed like this the original title makes sense. I am a little surprised that blogger did not do as Simon asked. So even we bloggers with many years experience are not always right.

I think that Dr Moores is probably lucky not to have gotten his way. It would have painted him in a very bad light and he would have then had to manage the reputation of censor (something that does not sit well with the average blogger). This way things can eventually just blow over.

steve said...

Are government ministers, who are quite capable of wasting their own time and our money themselves, being bothered by a parish counciller with a grudge?

Anonymous said...

10.28 sounds like One Voice and makes sense! Time for ECR and OVIT to get back in business and let Bertie Biggles go into retirement; Thanetlife (via Silicon.com and ZZZZentelligence) still 'lives'and such is the urge to blog that Simon Moores will be back on Thanetlife in due course. The rest of us can then enjoy a broad, interesting and often humourous view of Thanet issues.

Anonymous said...

So it has come down to this then,a little tiff has for all intents and purposes stopped nearly all of us doing the thing we are here for.
"What's that" you ask,"critism of "our lords and masters" is my reply,We, the voters are no longeer allowed in the council offices and our elected officials will soon be shunted off to the town hall for their little chats.
I suppose that the councillors will have to join the queues at the library to apply for their expenses and to find out what the unelected council bosses want them to sign next.
Powerless councillors.
Dis-enfranchised voters
Ignorant planners
Poor policing
Violence on the street and in the home
Stop the petty stuff and concentrate on the real issues,it is something you all do well.
GET ON WITH IT!!!