by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 24th 2007 11:29am
There's just something about being behind a keyboard and a screen that make people do nutty things, especially if they think that they're appearing to be anonymous. However, that can also run right into questions concerning libel. Over in the UK, where libel laws are much stricter than here in the US, it should come as little surprise that people who thought they were being anonymous are now being unmasked by those accusing them of libel. In one case, it was unveiled that the guy behind a website trashing a specific housing organization just so happened to run a competing housing organization. In another case, disgruntled fans of a UK football (soccer) team are having their identities handed over to the court for smearing the names of officials in charge of the club. At least in that case, the judge tried to limit whose names were being handed over, leaving out those whose statements "were merely 'abusive' or likely to be understood as jokes" alone to remain anonymous. Still, libel is increasingly a funny sort of crime in this world where everyone's a publisher and everyone has an opinion. Accusing someone of libel in court can often backfire, as it only calls that much more attention to the actions that led to the original claims. It seems that it's often better to simply respond to the false claims with proof that they're not true, and then leave people to make their own decisions.
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