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Liability in a pseudonymous social network

The law relating to media, internet, telecomms etc

Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby maninthekrowd » Fri Nov 21, 2014 4:37 pm

Sorry - SN is a Social Network

I'll try and search it out thanks
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby maninthekrowd » Fri Nov 21, 2014 5:01 pm

OK found this reference in the forum
http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/comm ... ial_media/
which almost answers my question - the nice thing is that it references human rights and freedom of speech in away that I understand it, and places a strong need for a 'public interest' test to be passed before a case is made to the CPS.
It does not state anywhere what happens in a pseudonymous environment - but it is clear that as long as we are rigorous in mitigating unlawful activity then we should be fine. We intend to do this, so unless anyone can refer me back to a change in law about a requirement to identify a service user on the service provider, i think we have done enough to mitigate risk.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby atticus » Fri Nov 21, 2014 5:36 pm

The CPS is the Crown Prosecution Service. It deals with criminal cases. It does not deal with civil cases. That link does not help you.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby Slartibartfast » Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:18 pm

maninthekrowd wrote:Specifically - the social network company has no means to identify the offending individual....


You do not require account creation, passwords or email address at registration etc? Your messageboard system, server and firewall do not keep any log of connecting IP's?

If so, then note the advice above - prompt deletion is your best defence -

If you are a website operator or host worried about liability in the UK for online defamation...

You have good reason to be concerned. Under UK law the position is rather complex but the starting point is that, not only authors of defamatory content, but also "secondary publishers" who store or disseminate information, such as website hosts or operators of website forums or other websites with user generated content ("UGC"), can all be held liable for website / online defamation.

However, if what you do amounts purely to hosting online content or operating a website with content posted by others, the law (in particular, the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 and the Defamation Act 1996) may let you off the hook provided that you had no reason to know of the defamatory content and that, when you found about it, you quickly removed it.


http://www.adlexsolicitors.co.uk/intern ... mation.htm
"Judicial tergiversation is not to be encouraged"
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby dls » Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:18 pm

So are you saying we are not liable when a user uses our tool to libel another or threaten another?


No.

Defamation is the act of publishing. It occurs at the point where it is read. If those involved are in the UK, the fact that the hosting may be elsewhere makes no difference.

You are responsible for what you publish. A poster posts, and you publish (and so does your host).

There are other real difficulties ahead of someone suing you, but they may not be insurmountable for someone who has been defamed. It is simply not worth the risks.

You will see that we have an assumption that people will post under a pseudonym, but it is only a limited protection. A person can acquire a value to his pseudonym identity.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby atticus » Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:32 pm

We also have a "no names" rule.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Fri Nov 21, 2014 8:27 pm

The OP may be thinking about s.5 of the Defamation Act 2013, which makes it a defence for a website operator to show that it was not him who posted the defamatory statement.

However, that defence is defeated if the claimant shows that is not possible for him to identify who did post the statement, or that he gave the website operator a notice of complaint about the statement to which the operator did not respond within the rather complex requirements of the Act and the Regulations made under it.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby maninthekrowd » Tue Nov 25, 2014 3:30 pm

Superb feedback - thanks guys, really helpful.
We do indeed have both a strong reporting toolset and an instant delete capability built into our social network. Users can report and ignore offensive content, they can also instantly delete their own content even when it has been shared in our closed app (this content is ONLY available within our app, its not web searchable so that limits impact anyway). Reporting does not remove the content (except from their view) but all others see the count associated with how many times a piece of content has been reported. We of course can view on a daily basis content that has received a large report count and if we deem it defamatory we can remove it. However, we are strong advocates of free speech - so we won't do this except in obvious cases like pornographic pics and extreme violent scenes. In addition we have a feedback tool for our users and they can vote qtrly on issues that concern or offend them, so if some specific content or user is causing broad user concern we can remove it and/or take steps to add more anti-violation tools. To some extent we need to learn as we go along.
We can of course react immediately to legal notification of defamatory content and remove it within a 24 hour period.

So under s.5 of the Defamation Act I think we can respond appropriately and avoid/limit the likelihood of legal action.
But at the end of the day its the same old story - those with money get to push around those that don't, and until we are big enough to afford to defend ourselves vigorously we can expect defamation claims to which our best course of action will be to remove the content even when we fundamentally disagree and potentially have a strong case for defence.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby dls » Wed Nov 26, 2014 6:03 am

However, we are strong advocates of free speech - so we won't do this except in obvious cases like pornographic pics and extreme violent scenes.


That may be laudable and brave, but you cannot both stick your head above the parapet and complain if it is shot at.
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Re: Liability in a pseudonymous social network

Postby maninthekrowd » Wed Nov 26, 2014 11:41 am

Agreed DLS - and no one is complaining (well except about how the law empowers the rich to an inappropriate degree in areas like libel) - like I said we need to learn as we go along.
Hopefully it seems that if we have strong reporting tools and can act quickly when forced by legal claims to address an issue, then we can survive long enough to have the fiscal muscle to counter some of the trends we see online.
Freedom of speech is just one - and todays call by the media and some misinformed MPs to ask social networks to report on online conversations and making us service providers legally responsible is total bananas. So if I overheard a death threat conversation in the pub I suddenly have a legal responsibility to which I can be held accountable if i don't report it?
Such a requirement means social networks would have to monitor and track ALL online content to look for the needles in the haystacks….just what so many got up in arms about when Snowden highlighted what GCHQ is up to. Why should a commercial entity be more trusted to do that? Does not bear thinking about, nor where it would lead.

The key trend we actually want to address is the pervasive use of tracking and profiling tools for our every online conversation and engagement. Pseudonyms is just one of the tools we want to use, and the risks of libel is just one of the many issues we need to address in order to address the wider issues. Using pseudonyms is one aspect of the toolchain we are creating.
The Data Protection Act is woefully behind the realities of todays Internet culture in commerce. Technology is advancing at a pace that means our children are being put at risk in ways 99% of the populace have no idea about. The anonymity time bomb is just one new ICO guidance that will detonate on our children, egged on by this government keen to monetize all that data locked up in its public services. Its locked up for good reason.

We have to find ways of using the Internet to deliver services that are already proven to add value, but in ways that minimise the data they collect or can be collected. Its the best defence we have against the realities of tech. The law can then endorse good cultural practises online…its a multi year exercise - it may have to become a movement. But all journeys start with the first step. The Krowd app will be our contribution.
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