Monday, April 23, 2007

Reader’s Question: Negative Publication by Others


I specifically read through some of your entries regarding self-regulating of blogs and they are indeed enlightening.

However, I also wonder about similar content on a different platform such as mailing lists and public forums.

It appears to me that bloggers have been "victimized" in a way, since enforcement is critically concentrated around blogs.

In public forums, it is not uncommon to see outright demeaning of certain policies, which I believe, in the blogging community, would have been dealt with in a harsh manner.

90% of forum owners feel that it is enough to display a disclaimer citing the posters are responsible for their own input.

However, given the moderating powers of the forum management, does that disclaimer automatically relieve them of responsibility entirely?


At the outset, no one should be afraid to criticize public policies or other decisions taken by policy-makers.

In making any criticism, avoid making defamatory, insensitive or seditious remarks, which could attract legal claims.

Personally, I find it helpful to be constructive and to back my criticism as far as reasonably possible with facts.

If you have an open mailing list (that is anyone can reply or send messages to the all on the list), an online bulletin board or a comments section on your website, some find it useful to have a disclaimer to say that those who contribute to such platforms are absolutely responsible for the views they share.

This, however, does not absolve you of all blame/responsibility since you can be deemed a distributor or publisher of the remarks, even though you may not have authored it.

Generally, to what extent you can be held liable for such remarks will depend on the specific fact situation and the applicable law.

This is why many owners of such platforms have moderators. But they know it is very difficult to moderate with absolute effectiveness. As such, they also accept feedback or complaints.

If a person finds negative remarks being made about him / her, the person can write to the platform providers to have such remarks removed.

As the owner of such a platform, it is recommended you apologise and accede to all such requests that are fairly made.

By doing so, it will show you are taking reasonable steps to address the complaint and are cooperating to minimise harm to the person who has been offended.

This can go some way in mitigating your liability to the person.

However, if you wish to avoid the hassle of all possible legal liability, I know of at least one information technology law specialist who suggests not having any open mailing list, online bulletin board or comments section on a website.

But in my experience running mailing lists or managing comments section on websites, I find moderating not too much of hassle and reasonably manageable.

Indeed, as a result of feedback from another blog, I am now comfortable enough to leave the comments section on this website unmoderated. It is four months since I did so and I have not had any problems.

Nevertheless, if any person is offended by comments he or she reads here, they are welcomed to write to me and I will be happy to look into the person’s request.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?

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