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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  1. identicon
    koolaid on GIF, 10 Aug 2010 @ 11:03am

    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-2010,1 109418.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.

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