Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Blogging Libel

The very public demise of a blog over the weekend may frighten some people away from blogging. El Passo Times received a big press hit on page 3 of the Irish Sunday Times. Unfortunately for El Passo the story was about the fact that it had shutdown after being served with “very serious legal documents”.

I have to admit when I read that on Sunday afternoon I got a minor moment of panic. Blogs being sued? Blogs being closed down? So publicly? Could I be sued? Who had I offended? What? Why? When?

However a quick look at El Passo showed me that their style of posting was, well lets just say, somewhat different to mine. In fact it was somewhat different from most of the blogs I read. I had looked at El Passo previously and not added it to my bloglines. It was a little too aggressive for my taste. I may bitch and complain about the government and ministerial decisions but that is, apparently, fair comment. It’s not personal. El Passo on the other hand went for the jugular of people and, in the case that led to their downfall, they apparently posted about the family of a public figure. I wont repeat the details, or even post a link to El Passo.

I’m not a solicitor or in anyway legally qualified but the key seems to be to remember public figures are still private people so don’t say anything about them you wouldn’t say about anyone else or want said about yourself. Even then don’t say anything you know is probably wrong or is likely to get your ass dragged to court. You may laugh it off but they might not. Your blog will be read by more than just you and other like minded individuals, it can be read by anyone and everyone. This includes comments posted by other people. It's your blog, your responsibility.

The public may want to know that the Department for Applied Widgets paid 4 billion euros for a secondhand plastic widget that was on sale on ebay with a previous highest bid of 50c. But they do not need to know that you personally think the local TD’s niece is a slapper whom your mate Jayo says he shifted in the nightclub last night.

Damien Mulley has some interesting and useful comments and Running with Bulls has a useful link to a pamphlet on libel.

(I have sort of cross-posted this with the another blog I post to but there I just posted a quick set of links. I wont make a habit of cross posting.)

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