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
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jul 2010 @ 9:20am

    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) ?

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