Once you have an active online community the challenges you face as manager of that community can be tough. There is none such tougher in terms of the consequences if it goes wrong than the legal issues that can arise. These legal issues are also not so black and white.
The legal question: If a user writes a defamatory comment in an online community is it the user or the publisher of the online community who is responsible for it? And does the audience number matter?
Rob Minto raises these issues in an insightful post on the Online Journalism Blog lookig at two landmark cases and their impact on the issue.
Case 1: A case of libel between Caerphilly town councillors Eddie Talbot and Colin Elsbury. Mr Talbot sucessfully sued Mr Elsbury for £3000 for defamation after he tweeted that Mr Talbot had been removed by police from a polling station.
Case 2: Jane Clift lost her case against the Daily Mail, where she tried to obtain the identities of two users who left defamatory comments on a Daily Mail article.
Rob Minto makes the valid point that while the Tweet went out to Mr Elsbury’s 30 followers the Daily Mail comments would’ve been seen by millions.
Until the law becomes clearer on the matter, our top tip is avoid publishing or making defamatory statements in general. Just to be safe.