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Liability in a pseudonymous social network

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Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby maninthekrowd » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:36 pm

In the situation in which registration to an online social network makes no request for any identifying information from a participant, and all participants clearly understand that all other participants are engaging via a pseudonym, what happens when a participant is found under US law to have breached specific libel or communications legislation?
Specifically - the social network company has no means to identify the offending individual, so would the social network company now become liable in any way?

Of course we have the normal Terms of Service that assign liability, and strict rules to not exchange violent, pornographic or similar offensive material, threats to life etc, and we empower every user to instantly block such content, which in turn flags that content to the company - and it flags that user to other users as someone whose content is regularly flagged so they can choose to avoid that content or not receive it. We also enable instant deletion of content both by users that post it, and by the social network management.
I have heard that there are changes in the law coming which make it incumbent on a service provider to be able to identify users…is that so?
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby Slartibartfast » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:09 pm

maninthekrowd wrote:In the situation in which registration to an online social network makes no request for any identifying information from a participant, and all participants clearly understand that all other participants are engaging via a pseudonym, what happens when a participant is found under US law to have breached specific libel or communications legislation?
Specifically - the social network company has no means to identify the offending individual, so would the social network company now become liable in any way?


That would be a matter for the US court which decided that US law had been breached.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby dls » Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:29 pm

Slart is precisely right - sadly.

US laws will be different in ways we know no what of.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby Hairyloon » Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:51 pm

We could ask and discuss the same question in respect of UK law.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby dls » Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:02 pm

It has always been the case here that such a forum provider would have an obligation on proper court request to divulge such information as they may have about the ID of its users.
Of course there was a first such request, but established rules made it a fairly easy request.

The mistake is made by any forum provider who makes such a promise, and any user who believes him.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby maninthekrowd » Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:04 am

We are a UK entity strongly aligning with and support the data protection act.
So DLS, you say 'such information as we '"may" have.'
Under law - we are more than happy to provide what we have….but its very limited.

So are you saying we are not liable when a user uses our tool to libel another or threaten another?
On US forums i am getting the clear answer we would not be liable - but in the UK the communications act has i believe been evolved to put a responsibility on the service provider?
If that responsibility is to provide what we have…then we are fine with that.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby atticus » Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:07 am

As soon as you are put on notice of an alleged libel, REMOVE IT.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby Hairyloon » Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:16 am

atticus wrote:As soon as you are put on notice of an alleged libel, REMOVE IT.

If not before.
If you exert a reasonable diligence to prevent libel, then it should reduce the risk and may help your defence.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby maninthekrowd » Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:25 pm

Hi

OK thanks atticus and hairy loon. We are already doing as you suggest. We have a reporting mechanism that every user has access to to easily click and report content that is in any way offensive.
We can then review such content on a regular basis to determine if it merits deletion, account suspension or a ban as per our terms of service and rules of use. We maintain the right to arbitrate final judgement in the context of all those options with our users.

While all these things reduce our risk - as does the nature of our SN which tends to circulate content in a locality not across the whole web.

But - I am still seeking to understand if we have a legal exposure given that we run a pseudonymous service - I wish I could find the article I read earlier this year that said something about moves in the UK parliament to make service providers liable in the event they were unable (not incapable) of providing identifying user information.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby atticus » Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:35 pm

I think that Service Providers can protect themselves by promptly removing material. dls will know. This has been discussed before, so try some searches on this forum.

What is/are SN?
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