Newsquest Media was not liable for defamatory comments posted on its web site following its article. Newsquest reported that a solicitor was barred from practising because of misuse of client funds. Some comments were then posted by users. Newsquest did not monitor the boards before the messages were published. Instead, it acted quickly in taking them down when it received comments about their alleged defamatory nature. Because of this course of action, the High Court agreed that Newsquest did not have any liability for the allegedly defamatory comments and could benefit from the defence under Regulation 19 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. Regulation 19 says that where an ‘information society service’ consists of storage of information provided by a service recipient (ie a user), the service provider is not liable for that storage where the service either does not have knowledge of the unlawful activity or acts expeditiously to remove the information when it becomes aware of the unlawfulness and the service recipient was not acting on behalf of the service provider.
Paul Gershlick, a Partner at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP and editor of www.Upload-IT.com, comments: ‘It may seem counter-intuitive, but this decision explains why it is the right thing not to moderate message boards but to take down comments immediately.’