Indian School In Singapore Sues Parent Because Others Commented On His Blog

from the safe-harbors dept

I’m very happy that the US has very broad safe harbors for liability in the form of Section 230, though I still don’t think such a law should be necessary. It should be common sense that you don’t blame a third party for actions of someone else. And yet, even with Section 230 safe harbors, third parties get sued all the time in the US. And, it’s even worse in other countries where there are no such protections, and some judges will put liability on a third party, creating horrible chilling effects. Over in Singapore, there’s a lawsuit that could be worth following when it comes to the proper application of liability on blog comments. Reader Veri alerts us to the news that a school based in Singapore (though it runs schools around the globe) the Global Indian Foundation (GIF), sued a parent who keeps a blog about the school, not for anything that parent wrote, but what some others wrote in the comments, claiming that the comments are defamatory.

The guy who’s being sued, Ajith K Narayanan, points out that he didn’t write the words in question, that the terms of service on his blog make it clear that commenters are responsible for their own language and, finally, that there wasn’t any defamation anyway because the comments are true. The latter two arguments are interesting, but it’s the first one that’s the important one. If Singapore properly applies liability to those actually responsible, the case should just get tossed out on that first issue, and the other two issues shouldn’t matter at all. If the school really wants to go after the commenters for defamation, it should be required to show that there’s a strong likelihood that the material was defamatory, and then request a subpoena for the commenters’ information (at which point the blogger can decide whether or not to fight it). But simply suing the blogger and claiming he’s liable for the possible defamation takes third party liability way too far, and hopefully the court in Singapore recognizes this.

It should be noted that there are some other oddities involved in this lawsuit as well, many of which are summarized at this Techgoss post. It appears that the school initially filed criminal charges, but those were quoshed by a judge earlier this year. Then there’s the really bizarre back and forth from April, that began with a report in an Indian newspaper that police had arrested a former GIF employee, claiming that he had started the blog and that it was a “fake” blog to discredit GIF. That report claimed that Narayanan had revealed this ex-employee to be his co-blogger in an affidavit. Yet, in a post on the site, denies pretty much all of that. This seems like a bit of a sideshow, but it does make the whole case a bit more confusing…

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Comments on “Indian School In Singapore Sues Parent Because Others Commented On His Blog”

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32 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

"common sense that you don't blame a third party"

That most rare and precious item: common sense. Which, by the way, is promoted by a focus on common law over the twisted Admiralty and contract law that corporations are using to defraud the public.

But I don’t believe that you’re going to get anywhere digging into details of foreign laws — or lack thereof.

B says:

Hi Mike,

Over the last year, the police departments of two separate Indian States have bypassed Interpol/US Judicial system to directly contact American bloggers and asked them to remove things on American blogs. The first asked an American blogger to remove cartoons and the other asked for a blogger to remove comment. In both cases, American bloggers said no to the Indian police.

http://www.techgoss.com/Story/387S12-US-Blog-stands-up-to-Indian-police.aspx

rolledup says:

The hodge-podge of an Indian news report on the arrest of a former employee describes the amazing Indian Police apparently searching for an IP address for two years. Then there are such words as “failing to respond to the pleas of the parents raised in our open letter” which Indian Police deem to be defamatory ! When Police assume the role of the judiciary, I guess worse things could happen.

To catch a whiff of the vindaloo of overzealous Cyber Police in India reaching into everyone’s backyard, see Blogger News Censored In India.

Then there is Google (do they ask any questions?) revealed by the Indian Police to be their reliable source for IP addresses. Aah, wonderful.

Andrea (user link) says:

They’re trying their luck – the Singapore government is well-known for suing and winning defamation cases. Given that the GIF isn’t connected to the government in an obvious way, it will be interesting to see if they get the case thrown out. There’s the additional complication of the government being somewhat paranoid about free expression. See this 2005 case brought by the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Kidney_Foundation_Singapore_scandal – it was quite the scandal when it broke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Singapore is OK

The school, GIF and the blog are Singapore based. The lawsuit is in Singapore. That is the main story.

Then the police action (side story) is entirely Indian as far as reported. It is extremely unlikely for Singapore to condone GIF or any company trying to project police power in such disputes. India being a third world country is quite messed up and well anything is possible.

The common point or link between Singapore and India must be the chairman Atul Temurnikar (Twitter) ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Ok, the Indian Police enjoy over-reach into all jurisdictions the moment the internet gets involved, but isn’t that the beauty (ugliness) of the internet ?

The argument goes like this: if Indian cops can bypass courts in various countries, why shouldn’t U.S. cops, or Chinese cops ?

Do it soon, or you may see all kinds of IP identification work being outsourced to India !

koolaid on GIF says:

GIF in San Jose first

Global Indian Foundation / GIF is described as a Singapore organization but it really is Indian (as the name says) with global reach. According to their press release http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/press/global-school-of-silicon-valley-opening-in-september-2010,1109418.html , GIF will open its first school in USA in San Jose, to be christened Global School of Silicon Valley. The ‘oddities’ are in a way part of the complexities that one sees when doing business with Indian entities.

India has its own charms too. Evidently GIF had some success in shutting off comments not only on the Singapore school blog but also the Malaysia school blogs http://giismalaysia.blogspot.com/ .

But it is their India school which still maintains an active blog that speaks out in strong words against GIF’s management of the school, http://rskparentsforum.blogspot.com/ .

It seems the India blog could not be shut down and only the Singapore and Malaysia blogs could be threatened. The India blog also reports the fruition of a long struggle by parents against GIF’s management when it claims that the “days of GIF are numbered”.

Perhaps so in India. In USA, the organization is clearly new and growing. Whether Section 230 and anti-SLAPP laws create an unfavorable environment for them, is a matter for debate.

Gaurasia says:

New Zealand parents

GIIS New Zealand parents who posted some comments on the Singapore blog were giving vent to their feelings. The clsoure of GIIS in Mangere/Auckland came suddenly and caused severe hardship to New Zealanders who trusted GIIS to go for the long haul. The resuscitation failed. The lone fault of GIIS Auckland may be that it could not spin money as fast as Singapore.

Ms Laurayne Gounder had left and found another job, but she was still listed as Principal for months and months. Mr Venkat Raman of Indian News Link, being a journalist should have spoken out more on this, as he was GIIS’s local advisor.

Finally this is not a pure rant from insane heads of mad parents. When GIIS started in Auckland there was a lot of fan fare as in the NZ Herald report http://www.nzherald.co.nz/hinduism/news/article.cfm?c_id=500822&objectid=10439209

but when resuscitation failed, there was no transparency or willingness to explain the circumstances. New Zealand parents’ strong feelings on this are not groundless.

Chilling Out says:

More "Chilling effects" from Global Indian Foundation vs. Blog

As reported by Techgoss at http://www.techgoss.com/Story/3269S14-Legal-warning-published.aspx the Singapore based Global Indian Foundation (a group that runs the Global School of Silicon Valley in San Jose and many such schools globally) had sent yet another legal notice to the Singapore blog. As Techgoss reports, the Chilling Effects Project (chillingeffects.org) has published that notice at http://www.chillingeffects.org/protest/notice.cgi?NoticeID=33101

That notice, as anyone can see, is primarily couched as a Trade Mark violation but additionally objects to referential use of the word “GIIS” as well as HTML linking for “drawing traffic” which are weak attempts to SLAPP down the blog. The target blog at http://forabettergiis.blogspot.com/ is viewable but the last update stops at circa April 2010.

Chilling Effect ?

alerdt says:

Now renamed as 'Global Schools Foundation' ?

The India MSN report

http://news.in.msn.com/international/article.aspx?cp-documentid=5437898

refers to the ‘Global Schools Foundation’.

My curiosity, as the report mentioned the name of the chairman, Atul Temurnikar, and its schools in many countries. I guess it is the ‘Global Indian Foundation’ now with a new identity, then ?

Other says:

Lawsuit on Google in India

Google search for the name Atul Temurnikar or better Atul Arvind Temurnikar turns up those sites. Also searches for Subodh Ramakant Gore. Not many hits for these. These names are also on the Global Schools Foundation site. These groups have opened new GIIS schools in India at GIIS Noida and GIIS Chinchwad. The same sites can be traced to one of the lawsuits Google is facing in India. The petitioner is GIIS K12 Education Private LTD of India and Google is the respondant. Check that out!

Anonymous Coward says:

Global Indian International School review lawsuit

The fee hike protest is an interesting bit. It is a very common trigger for acrimonious disputes between parents and managers/owners of Indian schools. It happens practically every year with Dubai’s Indian schools. Fee hike depends upon the regulator (KHDA)’s ratings, not the current parents’ pockets. Global Indian International School could be started by Kamal Kalwani/Scoreplus group under GIF franchise, and it could take hold in Dubai only because of the fee hike by Dubai Modern High School DMHS I think.

Anonymous Coward says:

Delhi HC status update

Delhi High Court is having winter vacation at present. Delhi HC case referred to above is CS(OS) 1080/2010, I.A. 7357/2010, I.A. 12194/2011 Delhi HC, GIIS K12 EDUCATION PRIVATE LTD Vs. GOOGLE INC AND ANR. Petitioner Rajeev Katyal, Country Director at GIIS K12 Education & Global Indian Foundation, by counsel ANUBHAV SINGHVI,ABHISHEK MALHOTRA,ARVIND NAYAR. Google’s is (external counsel) Poovayya & Co. Something to look for but both side are moving slowly it seems

wakemenow says:

Global Indian Education (USA), Inc

This is the related entity. It is a Foreign Corporation in the state of California. From CorporationWiki:

Global Indian Education (USA), Inc. has a location in Palo Alto, CA. Active officers include Narpat Bhandari. Global Indian Education (USA), Inc. filed as a Statement & Designation By Foreign Corporation on Thursday, October 29, 2009 in the state of California and is currently active. Narpat Bhandari serves as the registered agent for this organization.

GIIS Ahmedabad says:

GIIS opened a school in Ahmedabad, the problem is similar.

From Times of India News page:

"AHMEDABAD: Parents of 32 students of Ahmedabad’s Global Indian International School (GIIS) met education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on Wednesday, seeking his intervention in the ongoing impasse where the school has refused to admit their wards in the new academic year. The parents have threatened to boycott the forthcoming general election if the matter is not sorted out. "

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/parents-of-giis-students-threaten-poll-boycott/articleshow/68822771.cms

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