Removal of threads considered to be 'potentially libellous' ie somebody has complained

(81 Posts)
dikkertjedap Wed 13-Feb-13 10:25:58

To think that threads are being removed because they are 'potentially' libellous (thinking about the Safecobs thread) is very sad as it makes it very difficult for people to find proper information on the internet.

On Mumsnet you can say all kind of things about certain NHS hospitals, but if you say something about this unscrupulous horse trader the threads are being removed and more people may become a victim.

AIBU to think that before removing such a thread Mumsnet HQ should seek a legal opinion rather than what could be seen as pandering to the threats of unscrupulous individuals?

fromparistoberlin Wed 13-Feb-13 10:26:49

dont sweat the small stuff OP

and dont rely on MN (0r wikipedia) as an accurate info source anyway

WorraLiberty Wed 13-Feb-13 10:33:54

How long do you think it would take them to keep seeking legal opinions?

And why do you think they're not experienced enough to see potential libel when they see it?

There's plenty of information on the internet already...and some of it is far more factual than you'll read on internet forums.

gordyslovesheep Wed 13-Feb-13 10:36:04

to be honest that thread was people sharing their experiences - negative ones mainly - I hardly see it as libelous - odd to remove it

janey68 Wed 13-Feb-13 11:21:45

Most of us cottoned on months ago that theres
no rhyme or reason to posts and threads which are
Deleted. I expect it depends if someone at MNHQ is
mummy mates with someone working for a particular company smile

ecclesvet Wed 13-Feb-13 11:43:03

So feel free to start your own website where you're legally liable for other people's conversations. No-one's stopping you.

Stinkyminkymoo Wed 13-Feb-13 11:47:40

Thing is Paris it isn't small stuff. It's people parting thousands of pounds for something they've been told is safe & it isn't.

If this was a car dealership, you wouldn't say don't sweat it. It pisses me off how they manage to wheedle out of it <all the bloody time>, it's very disappointing.

Snorbs Wed 13-Feb-13 12:04:06

I didn't see the original thread. In general, though, the issue that Mumsnet faces in situations like this is one of a burden of proof.

Say there's a company called Sharks Ltd. A few people have a bad experience with them and post about it on Mumsnet. Sharks Ltd gets their solicitor to send a letter to Mumsnet saying "There's libellous material on your website. Get rid of it or we'll see you in court".

What's Mumsnet to do? Mumsnet can't necessarily check the veracity of the complaints. They're a parent's website, not a private detective agency. For all Mumsnet knows those complaints are false and are coming from a competitor of Sharks Ltd. Even if Mumsnet thinks that those complaints may have some truth behind them, how can they prove it in a court of law?

All Mumsnet knows about the posters making the complaints are their email addresses and the IP addresses they log in from. It would be incredibly easy for the posters to vanish into the ether the moment Mumsnet gets hauled up in court and asked to prove that what was published was true.

As ecclesvet says, if you really want to discuss this issue in a way that means that you won't get deleted by someone else then set up your own website (I'd recommend on based in the US as they have stronger free speech laws than we do) and post away to your hearts content.

Mumsnet has neither the legal nor moral obligation to let you post what you want and potentially libel who you want. Quite the opposite in fact.

You have to remember that MNHQ have had their fingers badly burnt in the past, and took a big financial hit because of it. If they are sometimes now over-cautious, I think they have good reason to be so.

They are personally responsible if "MN" gets sued, and have to weigh up whether they are prepared to take the risk over a specific issue. If they know the comments are fair, and/or that the impact of the issue affects childrens welfare, then they may choose to take a risk. At other times they choose not to. The impact of MN going off the air would be a lot bigger than a potential lack of information on one (fairly niche) topic which is not specifically about parenting.

Tee2072 Wed 13-Feb-13 12:25:26

How do you know their solicitor hadn't read the thread?

DeWe Wed 13-Feb-13 12:39:49

How do you know it's proper information anyway? You could post that XYZ had dreadful customer service and did <insert story> here.

But actually you're a disgruntled ex-employee who was sacked for stealing... but I can't tell that and you can hide behind an anonymous name and say all sorts of things.

Moby68 Wed 13-Feb-13 12:54:28

Good point DeWe .... it's easy enough to start a fire on an internet site, surely anyone with a genuine greivance would go to court?

I watched the thread about Safecobs but felt far too intimidated by the discussion to join in. sad

Maybe Mumsnet know something other users don't?

Moby68 Wed 13-Feb-13 12:57:27

But then Stinkyminkymoo it's not small stuff either if you're running a business and you're being tried and convicted online. It all felt very uncomfortable.

meditrina Wed 13-Feb-13 13:05:12

There is still a thread about Safecobs (just seen it in active convos), so it's not the whole subject that's a problem, it's the appearance of individual problematic posts.

There is nothing to stop anyone establishing their own website/blog to hilight an issue in the ways they believe necessary. It is solely and totally up to MNHQ what they are happy to publish.

Maryz Wed 13-Feb-13 18:53:37

janey68, I presume you have evidence for that allegation? Because I'm sure you wouldn't just make such a thing up, would you?

NulliusInBlurba Wed 13-Feb-13 19:03:32

Surely it also depends on the language you use to describe a company, and whether you are merely recounting the facts of your own experience or drawing conclusions from that.

If I say I used company A to order product B, and it arrived much later than promised, was already damaged when opened, and then the company refused to replace or repair the product and called me a cow on the phone, then that is a statement of facts as I experienced them. People can use that info and make their own decision. BUT, if I say 'hey all of you, company A is total shite, just don't ever use them,' then it's getting much closer to libellous, surely. At that point you're not merely making a judgement, but inciting others too to avoid company A and thus potentially damaging their business (which may or may not be with good reason).

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Feb-13 15:33:44

janey68

Most of us cottoned on months ago that theres
no rhyme or reason to posts and threads which are
Deleted. I expect it depends if someone at MNHQ is
mummy mates with someone working for a particular company smile

Gosh. That's a bit of an assumption, janey68.

Actually, there is quite a lot of rhyme and reason to why certain threads/posts are deleted for legal reasons.

The libel law in this country is quite, erm, unique. But we do think it's a good idea to abide by it.

Mumsnet is a post-moderated site. This means we don't read and pre-moderate postings on our site. However, we will, of course, remove postings that contain potentially defamatory comments, once they are brought to our attention.

This is because we, as the publishers of the comment and the poster, as its author, would be jointly liable, should we refuse to take the posting/thread down, once we'd been given notice of it.

amillionyears Thu 14-Feb-13 15:44:00

Is that why you keep asking for posts to be reported?

Because else you could be jointly liable for defamation with the poster, but not actually realise there was a problem until it was reported to you?
If that makes sense

HecateWhoopass Thu 14-Feb-13 16:51:23

How much would it cost MN to engage a lawyer to look over every single possibly libelous thread?

I seriously doubt they have that sort of money! grin

Since they've already had to deal with solicitors more than once, can you really blame them for not wanting to take chances? And deleting if something is reported to them and it looks to them like it might be a problem?

Will you pay the bill if legal action is successful? i'm sure if you commit to indemnifying them against all costs, they'll happily leave threads to stand.

Otherwise - since it's their money, their business, their livelihood and their arses, I think we can let them get rid of potential threats, don't you?

amillionyears Thu 14-Feb-13 16:54:32

They are running a somewhat risky business.

ceeveebee Thu 14-Feb-13 16:56:49

I am sure mumsnet, like any other publisher, will have a professional indemnity insurance policy and it is likely that a requirement of that policy will be to have adequate procedures in place to takedown potentially libellous content as soon as they become aware of it. Failure to react quickly could mean that not only do they and the poster get sued, but that their insurance would be invalidated and so they would be liable for costs and damages. I am sure these things are not taken lightly by any reputable publishing company

HecateWhoopass Thu 14-Feb-13 17:00:22

Hiya, amillion, how's tricks?

Yup, they are. Which is why it makes sense to minimise the risks as far as possible, doesn't it? They're already taking more of a risk than some other sites by not having a very heavy mod presence and by allowing a lot more than some sites I could mention grin. Imagine if they swapped styles? <shudder> wink

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Feb-13 17:12:55

amillionyears

Is that why you keep asking for posts to be reported?

Because else you could be jointly liable for defamation with the poster, but not actually realise there was a problem until it was reported to you?
If that makes sense

No, it doesn't quite make sense, amillion. Sorry if we're not being clear.

We are not liable for tiddlysquat - until we are given notice (via a report or a mail to us) that a post or thread is potentially defamatory.

Our request for posts to be reported has more to do with fair and equal application of our Talk Guideliens, than with our eagerness to hear about potentially libellous threads.

BigAudioDynamite Thu 14-Feb-13 17:18:07

So, if we all stopped reporting posts...you wouldn't be liable for anything. Then we could talk about what ever we liked, all the time?! smile

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Feb-13 17:22:51

BigAudioDynamite

So, if we all stopped reporting posts...you wouldn't be liable for anything. Then we could talk about what ever we liked, all the time?! smile

No. Because, to be honest, Mr Big Shot Sue Your Arse Off Solicitor doesn't muck around with joining Mumsnet, so he can report stuff. He sends in a big fat mail to us instead.

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