Monday, April 05, 2010

Sympathy for Harry's Place

Update Tuesday 6/3/2010 12:18 BST. Nothing to do with a superinjunction or restriction on free speech. All to do with the BNP apparently. Thanks to 'More Media Nonsense' in the comments. I wish Harry's Place good luck in distinguishing between "any BNP supporter/sock puppet" and their regular crew of posters.

Harry's Place may have been 'slapped' (as the parlance has it) with a super injunction. Comments are not available at all. Oliver Kamm doesn't know what's happening either.

[Deep Breath]

I disagree with almost every post on Harry's Place, and I find most of their commenters obnoxious. [Sigh] However, the super injunction, if it's true (and it fits the facts) seems to me to be an undemocratic restriction on free speech. IF this is true (and that's very qualified, as I really don't know all the facts), then I'm happy to say that I deplore the actions of the British Legal System and I insist on Harry's Place right to self-expression.

Consider this an open thread.

153 Comments:

Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I'm not sure I do insist on the right of HP commenters to self-expression - I think they're in general a bunch of mean spirited libel-happy assholes, and that generally shutting down their ability to attach their comments to a popular blog would be a step forward for the world (as it would be if the BBC dramatically curtailed the "Have Your Say" feature. On the other hand, fuck a bunch of superinjunctions, if that's what it was. I therefore see no need for a major change in our policy of "grudging minimal solidarity" - the fact that this is possibly a superinjunction rather than an ordinary libel case makes me somewhat more inclined to support them, but you've already covered that base with a front page post. If on the other hand T has just shut the comments down because he no longer fancies the open-ended personal legal liability then I say good.

I will now be watching Nick Cohen's twitter feed (as I think he is a bit of a loose cannon who doesn't always have the firmest grasp of how things work, and is thus most likely to cause himself some trouble) for an update.

4/05/2010 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Uh, I hope this superinjunction stuff hasn't come from me - I've read into comments on HP's Arts page, which is still taking comments. One commenter mentions "superinjunction" and then a guest poster says he's taken down a post he wrote on his own blog about this at the behest of HP writers, to keep it "low-key".

What that amounts to, I have no idea - my guess is that Galloway was much more serious about this libel thing than David T. expected.

On the general issue of HP being censored - let's not fock about, the majority of their contributors will find a welcome home at JihadWatch or some other such internet booby hatch. It's no great loss.

I'll cut this short - despite all of that, I don't like the idea of David T. getting stung for £75,000for a blog comment, if that's in the post. I'd be paying that back for most of my life if it was me, and David T. does have a wife and kids, even if he also has terrible judgement.

4/05/2010 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I really don't know what's happening. 'Super injuction' is a phrase I picked up, like FR. I assume there's a reason. I'd much rather Harry's Place deleted the offensive comments, but that's a matter of taste. I don't find either "Lady Chatterley's Lover" or "Ulysses" to be offensive, although others have. And I'm 48 this week and have changed my mind more times than I can recall. I know I've agreed with opinions I once found offensive. I really don't like the idea of a blanket shutting down of same.

In short, I agree with D2. If Harry's Place introduced moderation: all to the good. Legal clampdown: not good.

4/05/2010 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

A few points:

(a) do people really mean "superinjunction" here? I ask because I was under the impression, quite possibly erroneous, that with superinjunctions you couldn't even really mention that they existed.

(b) I'd be very hesitant to make any assumptions about this until I know the facts. Among the reasons for my saying so is the recollection that on a previous occasion when people leapt into to assume that HP was being legally oppressed, it turned out the complainant had more of case than some people were assuming.

(c) The position with HP comments has always surprised me a little, since one of the contributors is a lawyer and I am sure a lawyer knows that websites are legally responsible for comments that appear on them. (I mention this only because the question has come up on this thread - I have no obvious reason to assume that this is about their comments.) It's funny how many people don't realise this, who think that you can say whatever you like on the internet and that you can and should do it on other people's sites. But no lawyer could be under that impression.

(d) To some degree I agree with FR: seventy five big ones is a lot of money for an offhand remark. On the other hand, that's what lawsuits are like, people don't sue you for peanuts.

(e) generally on HP moderation, their habit of attacking their targets for their connections, and for what people connected to them are supposed to have said, has always fitted pretty badly with their habit of letting their commentors say pretty much what they like. It's a hypocrisy and a bad habit which should cease. But I don't think it will. Leastways, not of its own accord and probably not while the site exists.

4/05/2010 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@Justin: thanks for the very thoughtful comment on the Aaro on Strikes post. That's what makes this blog such a pleasure for me.

a) No I'm using super injunction loosely, having got it from Harry's Place Arts. I meant something more like 'seems to have been shut down by an unspecified legal action' but that seemed cumbersome.

b) Agree totally. As I believe in free speech, even for those I don't like, I thought it a good idea to get my defence of them in early. It's the Pastor Niemoller thing. Sometimes we liberals overreact, but that's better than waiting too long.

c) Agree. David T may be the wrong sort of lawyer.

d) FR seems right to me too. It's a lot of money for one remark. I don't believe the cash is the point. (I still think that that is to get David T sacked for reading and commenting on blogs during his working hours.)

e) I can't defend HP comments, which are a dreadful sewer in my opinion. I do question the right of anyone else to regulate them, however. I also can't see why HP comments are the issue: David T (a poster, not a commenter so much) wrote a comment on another site. Sure several HP commenters say more inflammatory things, but the connection seems tenuous.

4/05/2010 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I suspect that the reason for removing the comments might be that T had received some professional libel advice regarding the "I'm being sued by George Galloway" post, that said advice was "what on earth do you think you are playing at?", and that he's taken it down, and doesn't want the usual crew to put it back up again in the comments.

IIUC, preliminary injunctions vary in their strength, some allowing reporting of the fact that there is an injunction in place, some not. But it does seem to be the case that the HP editors are requesting people to not speculate about why comments are gone.

4/05/2010 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Latest on the HP Arts thread (because of course, they can never keep their mouths shut:

Indeed I do not think it a hoot. As far as I know it has nothing to do with Galloway or ’superinjunctions’ and you should look to the other end of the political spectrum for reasons why HP has had to temporarily close comments. I suspect that by tomorrow all will become clear.

They might have libelled Lee Barnes or Mark Collett, or their comments threads might have been used to make some of the death threats currently at issue in the BNP controversy. Or something. Anyway, if HP comments never come back it will be a clear fortnight too soon.

4/05/2010 10:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/05/2010 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The previous comment was from an anonymous driveby Harry's Place fan, so I thought I'd use it for an impromptu demonstration of how one goes about deleting them.

4/05/2010 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/05/2010 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

See? Easy as pie.

4/05/2010 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

A super-injunction is simply an injunction that the injunctee is not allowed to mention the existence of. Other people speculating about the existence or otherwise of a super-injunction is not evidence either way. I would nonetheless be surprised if anyone had gone to the trouble of seeking one - and to avoid what harm? It's only the internet, after all. More likely to be a precautionary measure for some reason, I would have thought.

I'm amused by Bruschettaboy's Stalinism-lite. Which is not to say I insist on free expression for everyone on every issue either. I'm pretty relaxed about limits to free expression when it comes to, eg, the murkier fringes of fascism.

However, I'm surprised that someone would argue that anti-Party talk should be censored when it comes from a moderate centre-left blog (even if some of the commenters are not quite of that persuasion!). Despite the entirely overplayed ongoing chatter about methods (smearing, association, etc) the issue presumably is about politics when it gets down to it. You don't like our politics and we don't like yours. There's no love lost between the habitues of HP and AW. I myself would nonethless think it entirely wrong were people prevented from discussing political issues here on legal grounds. I cannot imagine a clearer example (if not the most important) of the chilling effect on free speech we keep hearing about.

4/05/2010 11:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still doesn't make you any more right or less obsessed with HP though does it?

So it is all a bit sad really.

4/05/2010 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

I see certain people are still confused by the difference between shooting kulaks and deleting comments coming from anonymous commenters.

I'm in two minds about showing solidarity to HP --as Justin says, unless we know the facts we don't know why the comments were taken down, either voluntary or otherwise. On the one hand, it's a sewer of hate filled with people who are more than willing to play hardball themselves, so I can't cry too much about them. On the other, if this is a nuisance suit that's causing them grief you have to wonder if it could happen to other bloggers as well and help them out solely for that reason.

HP's a bit like one of those Islamist rantblogs where wannabe jihadis hang out: nasty, unpleasant, sometimes borderline criminal, but is that enough reason to shut it down?

4/06/2010 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

See, I've left that one to show why I was right to delete the others. Anonymous thinks he's scored a point because we were speculating about what had happened. Which would be slightly less silly or pointless if there were any way of awarding said point to "Anonymous". Or would it?

4/06/2010 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I'll cut this short - despite all of that, I don't like the idea of David T. getting stung for £75,000 for a blog comment, if that's in the post. I'd be paying that back for most of my life if it was me, and David T. does have a wife and kids, even if he also has terrible judgement.

David T has never been too shy about trying to run other people out of their jobs when he doesn't like their politics, so my heart is considerably harder than yours with respect to that one. I find it very hard to believe that a blog comment could do £75k of damage to Galloway's reputation, but the simple fact that T would find it very unpleasant to lose shouldn't count either way.

4/06/2010 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Given HP's general libel-happy tendencies, why are we assuming they're in the right here? Surely the odds favour this being a completely legitimate law suit? I'm happy to change my mind if new facts come in which exonerate them, but in the mean time who cares?

4/06/2010 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger MoreMediaNonsense said...

Hi old mates !

FYI :

http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=5536

Any lawyers here ?

4/06/2010 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

MoreMediaNonsense: Contra Socialist Unity, I actually agree with David Toube here. As I said last month. I think the demand of the lawsuit that David T take down the offending comment was clearly ridiculous. I also think that SU's own comments policy supports my view that they are co-responsible for David's comment appearing (and continuing to do so). Perhaps pedantically, I disagree with "David Toube has the chutzpah to publish comments on this blog..." IMO, David T wrote the comment; SU published it. Further, if David T had denied that he were the author of that particular comment (and writing a comment as 'David T' and giving your url as Harry's Place proves nothing), who would be responsible then? As a rough, and possibly dubious analogy, if your car is filmed running a red light, the authorities contact the registered owner of the vehicle. Who was driving is up to you to prove. IMO, blog owners are responsible for the comments they publish.

4/06/2010 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger MoreMediaNonsense said...

I agree and there's also this :

http://www.simkins.co.uk/ebulletins/lerSlandernotLibel.aspx

where Eady ruled nasty blog comments are more akin to slander and therefore more difficult to prove.

All in all this whole palaver is just more and more lawyer enriching garbage.

4/06/2010 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger gtmiller68 said...

Hack solicitor here!!!!

David T is arguing that Newman left the offending post on Socialist Unity whilst being fully aware of the Galloway / Ovenden letter of claims thus exacerbating the libel. (& exposing Newman to liability for a proportion of the damages in the event Galloway / Ovenden win)

It's a 'cute' tactic & certainly muddies the water. If Galloway / Ovenden press ahead they run the risk of dropping their mate Newman in the smelly stuff.

4/06/2010 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Well again, that's my original argument too. Even if David T's comment was "read by hundreds of people" SU could still have taken it down, and they should certainly have taken it down when they knew that David T had been served with a lawsuit which demanded, among other things, that he take the comment down. (Of course, he couldn't.)

If David Toube’s legal argument is successful, it will mean the end of blogging as we know it, as the burden of responsibility for libel will be shifted to the registered proprietors of blogs, and people posting libellous comments will seek to hide behind the blog owners to avoid legal responsibility.

This is rubbish, in my view. It won't change the nature of blogging, because it's the status quo.

4/06/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Martin Wisse - perhaps there is some thought that when comments are deleted in the end people will be deleted too.

4/06/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger gtmiller68 said...

@ Chardonnay Guy

The other intriguing point worth drawing out is why did the solicitor acting for Galloway / Ovenden not ask Newman to remove the post himself at the outset?

In my opinion this was a grave tactical error as it gives David T the option of running the defence of acquiescence - he'd be a mug not to keep that on the back burner & it could destroy Galloway / Ovenden's claim.

4/06/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@gtmiller I have no idea why they didn't. Again, in the previous thread about this, I argued that it was mistake for them to ask David T to do something he clearly couldn't. I believe that that may invalidate the whole suit, but other posters disagreed. It was certainly sloppy on the part of Galloway's lawyers.

4/06/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger gtmiller68 said...

@ Chardonnay Chap

Farooq Bajwa & Co???

http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/choosingandusing/findasolicitor/view=lawfirmdetails.law?orgid=492261&searchType=L

3 man band!!

4/06/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger MoreMediaNonsense said...

More FYI :

http://hurryupharry.org/2010/04/06/back-to-normal/

It was all due to the BNP pursuing "false domain info" with ICANN.

HP annoys and (perhaps) even harasses a lot of nasty people - annoying these ones is something you guys probably don't mind so much......

4/06/2010 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

There's quite a lot that's disingenouous about the whole affair. Gorgeous must surely know who runs Socialist Unity - even if he didn't, it would be incredibly easy to find out - and he'll have to explain why he didn't just ask to have the comment taken down. Newman, for his part, will have to explain why he didn't just take it down on hearing of the suit.

I very much doubt that not having pre-publication moderation is a defence against libel, but I also wonder whether any plaintiff who didn't ask a siteowner to take down a potentially libellous comment would not be asked to explain why not. Additionally, it would be useful to have professional knowledge here, but I have a feeling that a siteowner who demonstrated that they had done whever they could to expunge a libellous comment (i.e. had removed it promptly on request) would be viewed favourably in court. But of course my "having a feeling" is not the law, though perhaps it ought to be.

4/06/2010 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Justin, there's more than that. Andy Newman's recent post says "In fact I do consider that the comment made by David T was libellous..." so I think leaving it up was inexcusable. I hope Phil comes along and gives his view.

4/06/2010 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger gtmiller68 said...

@ ejh & Chardonnay Chap

See Godrey vs Demon Internet 1999

This case basically says a site owner will not be liable provided he removes an offending post expeditiously.

Perhaps Newman thought (allegedly) he was helping Galloway / Ovenden by leaving the comment up? They would then be able to say 100's more viewed it & the damage to their reputations was even worse etc etc

4/06/2010 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Maybe Newman's under the impression (or wishes to give the impression that he's under the impression) that you don't have to worry about libellous comments until the wronged party complains to you directly. I suspect that if he does think this, he is not right.

4/06/2010 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Yes, I think this was a total own goal for SU, who have probably fucked their case in doing so - it just goes to show that having cleans hands is an absolute requirement for anyone wanting to use the libel courts. (The matter is substantially complicated by the fact of David T's "I'm being sued" post, which repeated the libel, took ownership of it for David T and compounded it with a nice big slug of apparent malice). But I do think SU behaved quite badly in not taking the comment down and that the defence of acquiescence is basically valid.

On the BNP think, whoda thunkit? I am left in the embarrassing position, though, of having to point out that foul though Lee Barnes undoubtedly is, that doesn't make it OK for Harry's Place to have a fake domain registration entry. There are no meaningful free speech issues with respect to filing false ICANN data for a British blog, and if I'd known HP was doing so, I might have bunged in a complaint myself. It's an abuse of the system, and for a blog which does regularly skirt the borders of libel like HP, obviously one that shouldn't be encouraged.

4/06/2010 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

(I would also add that although I consider Socialist Unity to be largely the authors of their own misfortune, Andy is correct in saying that the "third party defendant" issue that David T is raising is one that is totally inimical to free speech in blog comments sections, really quite aggressive in its use of particularities of UK libel law, and very, very, very obviously a double edged sword with respect to a blog like Harry's Place.

Seeking indemnity for his own costs is a total dick move, quite the sort of thing that you'd expec from the very most aggressive British solicitors. If anyone who posts a libellous comment on Harry's Place was allowed to send David T their legal bill, I would guess that he would have comments up for possibly five minutes longer.

4/06/2010 11:41:00 AM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

Especially as Nominet's terms of service mean that nontrading individuals don't have to publish an address in WHOIS. (whois harrowell.org.uk, for example)

4/06/2010 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

(and triple posting like the enthusiastic nut I am, I'd further go on to say that although it was stupid for Andy to not remove the libellous comment, I have plenty of problems with the idea that not doing so created a shared legal liability - the precedent here would be to put the obligation on site owners to delete comments, rather than to argue with or disassociate themselves from them. I doubt this would cause much problem for me personally, because I tend to delete anything I consider unfair or libellous, but it would definitely cause problems for Harry's Place and for a lot of other blogs besides. It would absolutely definitely have a chilling effect; for example, more or less any discussion thread about George Galloway's involvement in the Iraqi oil quota scandal would have to be deleted en bloc. Dave, you know "Jack of Kent" a bit don't you? It would be interesting to find out what he thinks.

4/06/2010 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

the precedent here would be to put the obligation on site owners to delete comments, rather than to argue with or disassociate themselves from them

Would that be a precedent? My assumption is that it's a given.

Obviously a siteowner can't always be expected to know what is libellous and what is not, but nevertheless the point at which you have reason for concern (and can be shown to have such) is surely the point at which you delete?

4/06/2010 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous John Meredith said...

"but nevertheless the point at which you have reason for concern (and can be shown to have such) is surely the point at which you delete?"

That makes sense to me. Andy Newman is claiming that he believed Galloway was being libelled on his blog and decided nonetheless to leave the comment up, which surely does make him responsible for the alleged libel.

4/06/2010 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I think the bright line ought to be when the site owner is informed, by proper channels (ie not "reading about it on a blog somewhere") that the comment is potentially libellous, at that moment they get a choice whether to take it down or to take joint ownership of it.

I'd also say that there ought to be some element of context taken into account - viz, if someone posted a borderline libellous comment about George Galloway here and I responded to it reasonably promptly saying "As far as I'm aware that's not true", I would expect the whole thread rather than the single comment to be taken into account - I would not expect to be considered liable and would regard it as actively taking the piss if the original libeller tried to make me accountable for a share of his legal bills.

(I actually agree with ejh on what constitutes an ethical comments moderation policy, but given that there is always uncertainty and differences of opinion, plus the law ought to give a certain degree of protection to people with lousy judgement, I think the standard of legal liability ought to be drawn quite a bit tighter than the standard of what ought to be done. I also really do think there's a hypocrisy issue here as David T is attempting to rely on a legal argument which if valid would create a massive liability for him).

4/06/2010 01:21:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

(also, if blog comments are equivalent to slander rather than libel, trying to join a site adminstrator who didn't agree with you is like trying to share the blame with someone for listening to you slander).

btw, Justice Eady's judgement in Smith v ADVFN is an unalloyed joy:

"On 19 September 2006 Mr Byrne observed, "Thanks Dan for showing NS as the dishonest opportunist he is". Somewhat optimistically, Mr Byrne pleads that this is not defamatory

"On 27 April 2007 Mr Byrne posted the comment that " … it would appear that a poster called anonamous has sued several people for calling him names. He seems like a right cunt". No defamatory meaning is attached to this and Mr Byrne denies that it is defamatory. He argues that it is "the vulgar abuse that can regularly be encountered on the ADVFN bulletin board". One has to ask whether this is the sort of material that should find its way for resolution into the High Court. "

4/06/2010 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Godrey vs Demon Internet 1999 already gives that chilling effect that dd and others worry about. In that case Demon was held responsible for an Usenet post not even posted but propagated through their servers and the judge found that the "common carrier" defence Demon mounted (i.e. you can't hold the post office responsible for a libelous letter) wasn't adequate.

Which means that any blog with comments can probably be hold responsible for its commenters already, more so if said blog already screens comments, as SU does, as it has banned several commenters for being disruptive, including y.t. For Andy therefore to think he has no part in this when he led the allegedly libelous comment stand, when he has deleted other comments (including ones for possible libelous intent) and even banned people, is somewhat stupid.

(IANAL, of course)

4/06/2010 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Gorgeous must surely know who runs Socialist Unity
He's had Mr.Newman on his Talksport show, and referred to his website when introducing him. More than that, it is noticeably the most active site run by a member of Respect, it is where Kevin Ovenden first made comments on the internet after his expulsion from the SWP,so any fair court would look askance at a claim that they had no connection.
But the courts aren't fair, they make non-millionaires scared of going to them for fear of penury, while the rich can be rewarded well if they win.Not a good basis for establishing an egalitarian principle for where freedom of speech ends and libel begins.

4/06/2010 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Godfrey vs Demon has been very significantly weakened over the last ten years of precedent and I would argue that Smith vs ADVFN is much closer to the current state of things.

4/06/2010 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Richard J said...

But the courts aren't fair, they make non-millionaires scared of going to them for fear of penury, while the rich can be rewarded well if they win.

OTOH, the case of Lillie and Anor v Newcastle City Council & Ors (2002), while being the very definition of tl;dr, is a handy refresher that occasionally libel law can protect the helpless.
(It also means that Justice Eady should have a lot more goodwill than he gets.)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2002/1600.html

4/06/2010 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

On the HP thing. I'm with D2. What they did violated the rules. The fact that a BNP member used this to hurt them is irrelevant.

Unless they've updated their ICANN registration details I can't see how moving to the US is going to help them. Its hardly a free speech issue, while ICANN are a US organisation. Where does Harry get his advice from?

4/06/2010 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

GG doesn't have control over SU, and he very quickly demanded that the author take down the post (have the post taken down). I'm not at all sure that on this basis, he would be found to have acquiesced in publication in any sense that would help Toube. In Carrie v. Tolkien, the claimant was adjudged to have consented (acquiesced) to publication by failing to remove the comment from his own site. That does not apply here, and Toube would have to prove that Galloway consented to the continued publication. Whether the failure to take all possible steps to have the comments taken down is sufficient to do that is doubtful, I'd say, but the particular facts would be of great importance.

And from a non-positive law perspective, I'd repeat that GG's choice of defendant seems pitched about right - not too high as in the Demon case nor too low as in the Graun pick-on-the-employee case in which (IIRC) Singh was targeted.

Whether or not SU bear some brand of responsibility for leaving the comment in place, GG can pick his defendant and doesn't have to sue anyone else. What Newman happened to think about the matter before, during or after publication has nothing to do with the lis between GG and DT & anor. And you don't (as someone suggested) need 'clean hands' to sue for libel, in any sense I'm aware of beyond avoiding an actual abuse of process, or not pissing the judge off.

That Toube could cross-sue SU for contributing to the publication sounds pretty crazy to me. 'You shudda stopped me' - what would the basis of such a claim be? Negligence?

Re: the slander business, that's an odd one. An Eady finding which apparently takes judicial notice of a load of dubious generalisations about 'bulletin board' comments, it's nevertheless a long way from stating that such comments are not capable of amounting to libel. Instead an analogy with slander - depending on the particular understanding of how the relevant comments section functions - was used to introduce the category of 'vulgar abuse' which he said was commonly used in discussion of slander rather than libel. In any case, again the specific facts, e.g. about SU and HP, would be the thing.

4/06/2010 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Correction - above doesn't deal with this 'Part 20 defendant' business, which I'm not familiar with. I wonder what a just contribution from SU would amount to, given that the comment was repudiated on the site? And what the costs implications would be for Toube in joining SU?

4/06/2010 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

If I have a blog and link to another, and that other one says something libellous, then I assume I can't be held to blame. So why are these comments, which are basically a separate website on blogger.com seen as this blog's responsibility? Presumably partly because you do have the power to delete them, but if you removed that power would it still be the case? And if so why would it be different from someone setting up a comments blog to (say) Normblog which doesn't have comments? Is it that you have to be actively soliciting the comments?

4/06/2010 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

by the way, Toube is still getting bad advice:

Harry’s Place is registered and hosted in the United States, the editor and publisher too is a US citizen based in the United States and asserts his First Amendment rights

If he thinks that this assertion makes him anything other than the "publisher" of libels that he might be thinking of publishing on Harry's Place, or that Harry's Place isn't "published" in the UK, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

4/06/2010 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

If I have a blog and link to another, and that other one says something libellous, then I assume I can't be held to blame.

depends on context - if you did so in a way that made it look like you were endorsing the libel, you might.

I think in general that the test is going to be that he who has the power to refuse publication is the publisher, so long as that person isn't a common carrier. If I set up a comments blog for Normblog and then threw away the key so that nobody could delete posts there, I might successfully get away with not being responsible for libels posted there but a) I do not propose to do this as an experiment because it sounds very risky and b) if Normblog could credibly argue that I had gone through this strange rigmarole in order to provide a facility for someone else to libel him, I daresay that would be taken into account.

4/06/2010 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

In related news I see that "Graham" is crowing in HP comments about the fact that we didn't know the exact details of something that Harry's Place were keeping a secret. Apparently we have "egg on our face" for assuming that one of their many libels had caught up with them and expressing sympathy. I will certainly bear this in mind when considering whether to express sympathy for them in the future.

4/06/2010 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

It is amazing how Harry can get consistently bad advice. But this is just amateur hour. As Alex points out you don't have to publish an adress as an individual, while if you wish to stay anonymous then you can get a company to register it on your behalf. Neither are terribly difficult, or obscure.

If he thinks that this assertion makes him anything other than the "publisher" of libels that he might be thinking of publishing on Harry's Place, or that Harry's Place isn't "published" in the UK, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Does anyone know what would happen to a resident of the US with no assets/interests in the UK? Can they pursue it in the US?
Incidentally, Guido is probably in for a similar surprise one of these days. Don't go to your mates for legal advice I guess.

4/06/2010 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

BB, thanks for that reply which makes a lot of sense. But I was also wondering not about whether you could be sued for libel for the Normblog* comments section that you had set up, but whether Norman Geras could. And I assume he couldn't.

I guess what I am getting at is that a newspaper can't be sued for libel for a comment that someone has written on it with a pen and left lying around. So it seems to me you could divorce the blog from its comments and therefore not be liable yourself.

* I chose Normblog just because it was the first blog without comments that came to mind.

4/06/2010 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Sonic said...

"Harry’s Place is registered and hosted in the United States"

Where they have friends who can pay the bills?

Is it paranoid to see a link between HP and this?

http://file.wikileaks.org/file/cia-afghanistan.pdf

4/06/2010 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

IANAL, but it seems to me that for Andy Newman not to have deleted the offending comment the moment he knew of Galloway's suit was very bad judgment and tends now to undermine his position - and, more significantly, Galloway's. Toube's application to have Newman cited as a co-defendant (or whatever the terminology is) looks to me like a fairly blunt legal instrument for drawing attention to that weakness. Galloway and Ovenden may have gambled that Toube wouldn't go down that route precisely because it would have such catastrophic implications for HP, in which case they miscalculated. Either way, the weaknesses in the original case are being rather cruelly exposed.

I don't have any problem with a libel suit for the allegation that raising money for Palestinian relief equates to funding genocide - I think it's a contemptible slur and, more importantly, one which could have some very damaging effects. But I am starting to wish Galloway had waited for Toube to say it on his own turf.

4/06/2010 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I think there are a few blogs which have the semi-detached comments sections that Matthew describes - Tim Lambert used to run one for johnlott.com, but ended up running into trouble because it was unauthorised. billmon.com used to have "Moon of Alabama", which wasn't in a hostile relationship with "Whisky Bar" but wasn't an official project. In both cases, I don't think the original blog would be liable for libels in the comments, but the editors of the comment blog would. Kind of like you can't sue David Bowie (or Richard Dawkins) over comments on one of their numerous fan sites.

4/06/2010 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

GG doesn't have control over SU, and he very quickly demanded that the author take down the post (have the post taken down). I'm not at all sure that on this basis, he would be found to have acquiesced in publication in any sense that would help Toube

But he didn't demand that the siteowner take the post down. He may be able to pick and choose the defendant, but that doesn't mean he won't have to explain why he left the remarks up. (As far as I'm aware, nobody is claiming that Gorgeous asked Newman to remove the remarks.)

He's not (potentially) being asked to explain why he's suing X and not Y, which as I understand it is not the court's business, but whether he actually has any role in the fact that the remarks did not simply disappear.

On the general question of site responsbility for comments. I think the fact is that the publisher of blog comments is the siteowner. It's not perhaps quite as simple as that, because there's a difference from the position of, say, a book publisher, who can see what is to be published before it appears, have it read for libel, come to a judgement etc. This would presumably be one reason why the siteowner gets to have a 'life', in the opportunity to take the remark down. But on the other hand they plainly can't be divorced from responsibility for comments, because theycan take comments down and because otherwise, anybody can write what they like, anonymously, in somebody else's comments box.

You can still, as I understand it, sue distributors of magazines for libels contained in periodicals they distribute, which I think is disgraceful for more than one reason. But as long as that remains the case, assuming it does, then there's no way blog siteowners are going to be exempt from responsbility for comments. And besides, their actual position is closer to that of the publisher of a periodical than its distributor.

Anyway, it does seem to me that if somebody really wants to make the defence "I think this is libellous, but I left it up on my website anyway" they should be obliged to make that case inside a courtroom. Just on general principle.

4/06/2010 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

I know I keep commenting off topic but I couldn’t resist this.

Oli Kammbodge seems to think he's some sought of obituarist

"if obituarists are going to take a rounded view of Colin Redgrave's contribution to public life, they might also fairly point out that he was a corrupt bully, liar, bigot and brute"

oh such class. Someone might point out that "corrupt bully" is just as applicable to certain Bankers, particularly ones that have turned their talents to writish for the Times.

4/06/2010 10:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

This is getting pathological. Can Kamm walk past a grave without feeling the urge to dance on it?

4/06/2010 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

If he thinks that this assertion makes him anything other than the "publisher" of libels that he might be thinking of publishing on Harry's Place, or that Harry's Place isn't "published" in the UK, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Can you explain why?

Given HP's general libel-happy tendencies

Eh? I suspect our most antipathetic readers would agree that there's barely a day goes by that authors of HP are not libelled somewhere e.g. "anti-Muslim bigot", etc.. I'm talking about explicit references to the HP authors, not the commenters.

If we had 'libel-happy' tendencies, I reckon I'd own that Audi R8 by now.

Oh, and how many regular bloggers reading this receive threatening calls, have their employers contacted every week and have been advised to take security measures at home?

You might want to ponder this the next time you climb your high-horses about domain registration etiqutte. Of course, the law is the law. And context is everything.

4/07/2010 01:52:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Can you explain why?

Yes, but I think it might be a useful exercise for you to work it out for yourself. I'll start you off with the clue that you should read what your own site posts about "libel tourism". If a Ukrainian business man can sue a Ukrainian-language newspaper for a small number of downloads (and he did, successfully), then do you think it is likely that a British website with a majority British readership, mainly about British politics and mainly written by British people, can avoid liability by shifting its domain registration and claiming that its "editor" is American?

The domain registration rules aren't "etiquette" - they're clearly necessary. And if you had even slightly more of a clue about domain name registrations than you do about libel (ie, slightly more than none), you would know that it's possible to have an anonymous registration - you just have to take five minutes out of your busy day to do it properly.

Obviously it is terrible if you've been recieving direct physical threats and I condemn that unreservedly. But why do you tolerate the use of your comments section to make threats to other people? Why do you encourage people to contact the employers of, say, Dilpazier Aslam and Rohan Jayakasera? Etc?

4/07/2010 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

You might want to ponder this the next time you climb your high-horses about domain registration etiqutte. Of course, the law is the law. And context is everything.

Indeed, and the law in this particular case is set by ICANN. You broke it. If you wanted to remain anonymous then you get a company to register it on your behalf. It would have taken about 5 minutes of research to find that out. This stuff isn't difficult and its a bit arrogant/foolish to assume the rules don't apply to you.

By 'libel-happy' I think DSquared means that you guys run a site which makes libellous comments every day. Its astonishing nobody has sued you before, but if you keep it up somebody will get that Audi at your expense, American servers or not.

4/07/2010 08:41:00 AM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

Yes, but I think it might be a useful exercise for you to work it out for yourself. I'll start you off with the clue that you should read what your own site posts about "libel tourism". If a Ukrainian business man can sue a Ukrainian-language newspaper for a small number of downloads (and he did, successfully), then do you think it is likely that a British website with a majority British readership, mainly about British politics and mainly written by British people, can avoid liability by shifting its domain registration and claiming that its "editor" is American?

I rather think you're guilty of a wild assumption that registration in the US and an exclusive claim over publishing rights by a US citizen would be the only measures taken. In conjunction with others, they are rather significant steps I can assure you. Or rather, some lawyers seem to think they are.

As for the anonymous domain name registration, our information is that this offers little or no protection as a court order can be issued demanding more details of individual involvement and that such an order could very well succeed. Courts are able to come to the judgment that "this is a sham", whatever the "this" happens to be. Anonymous registration makes it slightly more difficult and tedious for those trying to discover your identity to do so, but it likely offers no useful protection in law.

But why do you tolerate the use of your comments section to make threats to other people? Why do you encourage people to contact the employers of, say, Dilpazier Aslam and Rohan Jayakasera? Etc?

Firstly, I'm pretty certain we've never 'outed' anyone. We ask people who have volunteered opinions in the public domain using their own identities to stand by them or repudiate them. Very often (although not exclusively), said opinions/comments are linked to the role that individual has as a public figure. So a Union rep talking about Union policy on a Union bulletin board, for example. I really don't see the problem asking people to either defend or withdraw in such cases.

To take Aslam, our biggest gripe was in fact with the Guardian for not disclosing Aslam's political associations when he covered related stories. It transpired that the Guardian was not aware (so they claimed) of Aslam's membership of HuT and they fired him for not revealing this to their editorial board as their employment conditions demand.

Can you please explain what we did wrong and clarify how this is analogous to our political foes researching our true identities so they can write anonymous lies to our employers in an effort to get us fired?

4/07/2010 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

To take Aslam, our biggest gripe was in fact with the Guardian for not disclosing Aslam's political associations when he covered related stories

How did this work with Owen Hatherley?

4/07/2010 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I really don't see the problem asking people to either defend or withdraw in such cases.

No, you don't. Which tells us a lot about what HP does and the kind of people it attracts.

4/07/2010 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Anonymous registration makes it slightly more difficult and tedious for those trying to discover your identity to do so, but it likely offers no useful protection in law.

I'm sorry - half an hour ago you were claiming that you needed protection against threatening phone calls? If your objective is simply that you want to be able to libel people without legal recourse, then it is not a legal technicality or a point of etiquette that you shouldn't be allowed to do that. You shouldn't.

And you aren't. Your lawyers are kidding you if they think there's any legal construction in the world that can stop, say, the person called David Toube from being liable for the consequences of libels he posts on his website. He's a natural individual who's easy to find (just show up down Hackney swimming baths during Secular Humanist Half-Hour) and to serve papers on. Paul Staines is seemingly under a similar misapprehension.

4/07/2010 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SO Harry's Place is being attacked by both Far Left and Far Right.

Meanwhile the all round good guys at Aaronovitch Watch are watching Aaronovitch while sniping at Harry's Place.

Must feel good about yourself Daniel?

Passing Through

4/07/2010 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

To take Aslam, our biggest gripe was in fact with the Guardian for not disclosing Aslam's political associations when he covered related stories

How far back should these 'political associations' go? Should everyone who writes for the Guardian have a paragraph at the bottom of every article with something like -- -- joined the Labour Party at 16, but was expelled two years later and joined a "post-Trotskyite Luxemburgist sect." Has links with 'International Socialism' (now the SWP) and is an admirer of Che Guevara. Has also said that it "would be a great pleasure to take part" in a second Civil War in the US.

You really don't get it: "disclosing political associations" - you'd slot right in to the Stasi. You'd like to read MI5's files on journalists, wouldn't you?

4/07/2010 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Can you please explain what we did wrong and clarify how this is analogous to our political foes researching our true identities so they can write anonymous lies to our employers in an effort to get us fired?

Well off the top of my head, I can recall the names and email addresses of several UCU members being posted by David T. alongside the strong implication that the lot of them were racist lunatics - taken down after even HP's readers pointed out this was a step too far. I also recall Jenna Delich's email address and details of her employers were repeatedly posted in threads by your nuckfut commenters, then deleted several hours later. Didn't she say she received threats? I could be wrong, but that seems superficially similar to me.

I'm also reminded of the HP contention that Owen Hatherley shouldn't be allowed to review books for the Staggers, because you wrongly identified him as a political opponent; there have been various errors over identity that have led to innocent punters facing accusations.

Like I say, that's off the top of my head - no doubt there's more I've missed.

I also notice that you're lecturing Sunny Hundal about how he's legally responsible for what commenters post on his website just now. I'm sure this is the exact opposite position to the one you've taken with me in the past, and I wonder how you feel this would shake out if, say, Galloway, John Pilger or Ken Livingstone were to happen by one of your nuttier debates some day?

And by the way, any chance that one of you could retract that last post about Human Rights Watch, since it's been revealed that the Times article it's based on is filled with basic inaccuracies? After all, HRW do some good work, and it'd be a shame to leave articles filled with glaring fuck-ups lying around the internet for any fool to stumble across.

4/07/2010 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I'm reminded slightly of when Oliver Kamm complained that an ex-member of the SWP had reviewed a book by a member of the SWP and not mentioned it, and this was a scandal.

And yet his own review of Nick Cohen's What's Left in Decentiya had failed to mentioned that he was a friend of the author and one of the book's two proof-readers, that the book review appeared in a journal edited and founded by a man who is a friend of both him and the author, and indeed was a co-founder of a political movement with the author. The author also sat on that magazine's advisory council.

The review also forgot to mention that the reviewer had been asked by the book's publishers to be part of a "viral marketing campaign" to say nice things about the book in public, which he had done.

4/07/2010 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

SO Harry's Place is being attacked by both Far Left and Far Right

this might indeed mean that you occupy the sensible middle ground and are attacked by extremists of both persuasions simply because you are such nice and reasonable people.

Other explanations are possible, however.

4/07/2010 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/07/2010 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

oh no, I can't handle the truth!

4/07/2010 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

D2: It offers protection against what their commentators might publish, so long as their publisher is based in a state that offers protection against UK libel law (currently on NY I think), and has no assets in the UK. Harry would also have to show that he is no way responsible for the site anymore - a defense which would presumably depend upon the judge, and Harry not acting as if he runs the place. It seems like a gamble to me, but then I'm not one of the clearly excellent lawyers consulted by Harry. Obviously it offers zero protection to identifiable writers based in the UK.

As for the anonymous domain name registration, our information is that this offers little or no protection as a court order can be issued demanding more details of individual involvement and that such an order could very well succeed.

Indeed. Harry's identity is well known, yeah? I don't know if you're "out", but its not hard to find your identity. So what exactly were you hiding? The address is only required if you're a company. You'd know that if you'd bothered to read the rules. You fucked up, stop pretending that this is some freedom of speech/martyrdom thing.

I must remember that you believe yourselves to be above the law, though. It explains a lot.

4/07/2010 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

It offers protection against what their commentators might publish

Oh is that the idea? I am not sure this really works though as the UK admins clearly do have the power to edit comments and are boasting about the fact with respect to BNP trolls. But it's slightly more comprehensible. Amazingly hypocritical if they're doing this to protect themselves from having to exercise any sort of responsible moderation over their own commenters while simultaneously trying to make Andy Newman responsible for things they themselves wrote.

Oh yeah, Harry - I'd forgotten about what happened to Blake of Blake's 7 too. If I were him I would potentially be quite keen on setting things up so I was no longer responsible for that site.

4/07/2010 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

No, you don't. Which tells us a lot about what HP does and the kind of people it attracts.

This is true, but I can't help but observe that something similar is true of Socialist Unity* which spends much of its time publishing other people's documents and private correspondence and is then surprised that the comments boxes fill up with arseholes shrieking at one another.


[* and indeed Liam MacUaid]

4/07/2010 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

If Harry is Blake, does that mean Gorgeous George is Servalan?

4/07/2010 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Perhaps Harry is Inspector Taggart?

4/07/2010 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Yeah I can't really see it working either, unless they got amazingly lucky with the judge. Given the history of the site, its name, the fact its clearly targetting a British readership and they've clearly stated that this is a legal dodge designed to protect them from British libel laws... If they were very disciplined about it, had a formal handover and made sure that no British based contributor had access to moderation of any kind it might work. I suppose secret moderation might work if UK law courts have zero discovery powers in the US. No idea if this is the case, or not.

Two steps from Blake's Seven to David Aaronovitch incidentally.

4/07/2010 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

... via Ben of that clan, who also was the Doctor Who screenwriter who wrote the first episode to contain stair-climbing Daleks!

4/07/2010 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

ejh - that's a bit of a leap. My point about the HP crew is that they regularly dig out (public) statements they consider embarrassing or incriminating and then harass the person who made them into retracting them (at best - much worse outcomes are possible). Moreover, they clearly think this kind of behaviour makes them principled leftists rather than (say) squalid little bullies. I don't know about publishing other people's correspondence - they may be completely innocent of that offence for all I know.

4/07/2010 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well the point is perhaps that SU seem to think that routinely publishing other people's private correspondence is something to do with being principled leftists and nothing to do with being squalid bullies. In their case as well as with HP, I think the tone of the comments is quite a good indicator that they are not right.

Different kind of bin-rakers, but bin-rakers nonetheless.

4/07/2010 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

How far back should these 'political associations' go? Should everyone who writes for the Guardian have a paragraph at the bottom of every article with something like...etc...

Why are you asking me? The Guardian sacked him because, according to them, he breached their conditions of employment.

Do you want their address?

Re the mistaken identity cases; well, they're cases of mistaken identity. There's room for criticism, of course, but we're not talking about the same thing anymore once you include these in our list of midemeanours.

4/07/2010 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I love this - your defence is that you shouldn't be blamed for being such assholes because you are also idiots?

4/07/2010 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

In at least one instance you didn't try very hard to verify you had the right identity. A quick google search would have done it. I think if you're going to try and destroy somebody's career, squalid as that is, you might try and make sure you've got your facts straight...

Oh yeah. Facts and HP don't mix. Forget I said anything.

4/07/2010 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Was Gan the one who was loyal but monumentally stupid?

4/07/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

ejh - I take the point; I agree that what SU has in common with HP is their use of tactics which really ought to prompt the question "is this scummy or not?", and the point about the kind of support that those posts attract is a good one. (I don't think general scumminess is anything like as large a proportion of SU's content as HP's - SU at the moment is pretty much wall-to-wall "vote Labour", "vote RESPECT" and "vote Green".)

But I don't think it's just a matter of different kinds of bin-raking - to me, hounding people to retract what they've said, with no real upper limit on how far you're willing to escalate the hounding, is an order of magnitude scummier than anything SU gets up to.

4/07/2010 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

But don't forget SU found it easy to ban people it dislikes (like, erm, me), yet has no problem leaving comments standing that are admitted to be libelous, so that their political ally can sue the commenter, then complain said commenter dragging them into it?

Not that different from HP bitching about people trying to "out" them while doing the same to people they dislike...

4/07/2010 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. HP repeated allegations made by Oona King against the gorgeous one after she retracted them acknowledged they were false and apologised.

2. The Harry of Harry's place is allowed to keep his anonymity even though recent revelations about the killing of his colleagues in Iraq surely means he should answer for his pro-war stance.

4/07/2010 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

....says somebody anonymously.

4/07/2010 07:11:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I'm not sure what point of etiquette HP are supposed to have breached regarding their domain, I've obviously missed that. But presumably by having the site registered and hosted in the US it protects them from legal action in the UK to get the site taken down by an aggrieved party, which I think has happened in the past.
Which is a different kettle of fish from protecting individual contributors (especially those based in the UK) against libel actions brought against them personally.
And I find David Toube's actions here pretty objectionable - he made the comment he should take the consequences himself, not drag SU into it.

4/07/2010 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

Well off the top of my head, I can recall the names and email addresses of several UCU members being posted by David T.

Only names and email addresses said UCU members had freely volunteered on the internet. I’m not a terribly big fan of “here is the address of so-and-so – write to tell them how you feel about etc...” in any context, but you’re not 'outing' anyone if you’re using freely available public domain contact details of subjects not claiming or seeking anonymity.

alongside the strong implication that the lot of them were racist lunatics

Not “racist lunatics”, but inconsistent in their opposition to racism and bigotry in all its forms, certainly.

- taken down after even HP's readers pointed out this was a step too far.

As above, such tactics are not to the taste of everyone who writes or comments at HP. Which is why this information was removed.

I also recall Jenna Delich's email address and details of her employers were repeatedly posted in threads by your nuckfut commenters, then deleted several hours later.

Jenna Delich posted comments using her real name and, given her real name and where she was commenting, discovering she was a lecturer in Sheffield would have been no great shakes even if this information wasn’t already freely available online. Again, we’re talking about public domain information about an individual not claiming or seeking anonymity.

For the uninformed, Jenna Delich linked to David Duke’s site and a story promulgating anti-Semitic tropes with the comment “the facts speak for themselves”. When we reported that a British academic was citing David Duke as a reliable source on Jews, we were hit by a vexatious libel claim that resulted in our ISP being convinced to shut us down. Only on AW can such a turn of events be considered to reflect badly on HP.

Correction, that would work on Crooked Timber, too.

Didn't she say she received threats? I could be wrong, but that seems superficially similar to me.

I’ve no idea, but if she did then it is appalling. Like I say, I’m not a big fan of “here are the contact details of X” even if those contact details have been volunteered by X.

I'm also reminded of the HP contention that Owen Hatherley shouldn't be allowed to review books for the Staggers, because you wrongly identified him as a political opponent; there have been various errors over identity that have led to innocent punters facing accusations.

Yep, fuck ups and we deserve censure for those mistake identity episodes. And we got it, and we apologised.

Like I say, that's off the top of my head

Well then you best carry on to the bottom of your head as what I asked was:

Can you please explain what we did wrong and clarify how this is analogous to our political foes researching our true identities so they can write anonymous lies to our employers in an effort to get us fired?


...and you’ve so far come up empty.

You’re currently in stage II of “I dislike HP so much that I’ve convinced myself they are guilty of things they are not” syndrome. If you want to know what happens in stage III, ask Sunny.

4/07/2010 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

Yeah Andy, Respect come after DT for a joke, and one of the Respect party's biggest blogging supporters exacerbates the alleged libel in the mistaken belief that he can do so without implicating himself and DT should just fork out how ever many thousands he needs to and take it on the chin.

Maybe pour a coffee, familiarise yourself with events, think it through a bit more and come back to us, eh?

4/07/2010 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Can you please explain what we did wrong and clarify how this is analogous to our political foes researching our true identities so they can write anonymous lies to our employers in an effort to get us fired?

It's not a matter of "analogous". It's the exact same thing. Your case with respect to the (private) UCU mailing list is that "well, these people were posting on the internet, plus it wasn't much work to find out Jena Delich's workplace". What do you think Harry's Place is posted on? FFS.

To correct a false impression, we at AW have expressed sympathy and support for you and opposition to the people suing you on every single one of the several occasions it has happened. That support has been grudging and unenthusiastic because you were so obviously the authors of your own misfortunes and you're such inherently unsympathetic people, but our position has always been clear.

Oh yes, I seem to remember David T advising Nick Cohen to sue a journalist for libel, in circumstances where it was pretty difficult to see what the case for doing so might be.

4/07/2010 10:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

you’re not 'outing' anyone if you’re using freely available public domain contact details of subjects not claiming or seeking anonymity.

My full name and my contact details are freely available and quite easy to find; my phone number isn't even ex-directory. I'm trusting like that. So you certainly wouldn't be 'outing' me if you found something nasty that I'd posted on my blog one night, publicised it widely, encouraged people to visit me at home and express their disagreement, wrote to my employer asking them to sack me, etc. You would, however, be grossly abusing any conceivable right to free expression (or "telling people what they don't want to hear") and acting like a squalid little bully.

4/07/2010 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger Nightstudies said...

:3 I was extremely amused at Sonic calling Harry's Place a CIA front site in this thread.

Harry's Place's antagonists are as grotesque as Dick Tracy's and funnier.

4/08/2010 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

It's not a matter of "analogous". It's the exact same thing. Your case with respect to the (private) UCU mailing list is that "well, these people were posting on the internet, plus it wasn't much work to find out Jena Delich's workplace". What do you think Harry's Place is posted on? FFS.

No, my point is that these people had volunteered their personal details. They probably didn't relaise that this may come back to haunt them when they subsequently thought it would be jolly japes to link to the website of a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, but that's their lookout, isn't it?

The UCU is a public body whose leadership is pretty open about its intention to help set the political agenda, most notably in efforts to organise an academic boycott of Israel. That this same UK Union has members linking to anti-Semite David Duke on its internal mailing list citing him as an authority on Jewish plans for world domination *without censure* is public interest material, I'd say. Once upon a time, I suspect you might have agreed.

To claim that our expsosure of these facts is the "exact same thing" as outing an amateur blogger who clearly seeks anonymity purely on the basis you don't like his politics is about the most stupid thing I've read on a blog today. And considering I've spent a good few hours at Pickled Politics in the last 24, that means you really have surpassed yourself.

My full name and my contact details are freely available and quite easy to find;

You are a private individual, as are most bloggers and commenters, sharing your opinions on the internet. That you are a baker from Basingstoke living at 32 Acacia Avenue is not relevant to any discussion about your opposition to the Iraq war or any other position or view you might hold, unless perhaps its related to bread-making.

Jenna Delich commented (and not just on the UCU list) using her work email address. As I say, she is an academic in a UK Union that actively seeks the political limelight and our coverage of her was restricted to comments she made that were germane and relevant to the UCU discussions we were already having about the attempts to organise an academic boycott of Israel.

So tell me, is the fact that a UK academic paid by the state is citing David Duke as an authority on Jews whilst her Union are enagaged in attempts to organise an illegal academic of Israel newsworthy or not? And if this person volunteers the fact that she is Mrs X working at institution Y, by what logic are we obligated to hide this information from readers?

Notwithstanding the above, I'd still prefer we just linked to such material and commented on it rather that including contact details in the body of posts al al MediaLens, but this is long way short of 'outing' anybody and not remotely similar to your own hypothetical exposure using personal information about you available online.

4/08/2010 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Do you not see that you are engaging in long lawyerly arguments about the vital importance of closely defined minuscule differences between something you did, and something you want to claim is totally unacceptable?

While at the same time admitting that you did do a load of totally wrong things, but these were "mistakes", unrelated to your normal behaviour?

You're in denial.

4/08/2010 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

I've no interest in rehashing the Jena Delich case, but yeah Brownie you crossed a pretty obvious line there. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should. I could place your and Harry's personal details on neonazi/jihadist sites, but I don't.

Jena Delich wrote something very stupid. Using that to discredit her union is one thing. I may not agree with the argument, but its hardly unreasonable. But to expose her to the kind of bullying that you did is no different to the type of campaigns carried out by the tabloids against people they disapprove of. Hell, she could be a BNP member for all I care and I'd still feel the same way about it. Its squalid and its vicious. The difference between your tactics and anti-abortionists in the US is that nobody has got killed thanks to you, yet. But that's it, that's the level you're operating at and ultimately its the kind of politics you're engaging in. Doesn't matter how noble your words, or sentiments, you're still operating in the gutter.

If she had been injecting racist views into her lessons, then it would be appropriate to present evidence of this to her employers (who might well ask why her students hadn't already done this, but never mind). If she had been involved in violent assaults, or similar unpleasentness, then sure let people know where she lives. But she hadn't.

In fact, for all the evidence that you had, it might have been an innocent, if very stupid, mistake. You didn't know, and the reason you didn't know is because you fuckers don't give a toss about facts. You just know that the UCU is filled with anti-semites, and so when someone there does something which might be evidence of anti-semitism, you just assume that it is. If you guys were fundamentalists (Christian/Muslim/Jewish/whatever) your thought processes wouldn't be any different. There's no room for doubt, for grays or for thought.

4/08/2010 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Delich's circulation of KKK material was dreadful.

But that doesn't mean that you did not also disgrace yourselves over it - in particular the oh-so-clever play on the word 'link', trumpeting to the world that the she and therefore the UCU had 'links' with the Klan (and by the way here's her boss' name and address), rather than the substantially lesser charge that she had circulated a 'link' to a website.

This is the problem with Harry's Place psychology - because you're against the bad guys, therefore you have carte blanche to behave exactly as you like.

4/08/2010 08:45:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

As a quick aside, I was just passing through normblog when I noticed that his latest missive on Martin Linton says that the latter has been "challenged for deploying a standard anti-Semitic trope in talking of Israel's 'long tentacles', as a metaphor for Israeli and pro-Israeli money attempting to exert influence over the British political system,"then talks of "the anti-Semitic connotations of Jewish money working behind the scenes"; this (is trope the right word?) that whenever anyone criticises Israel theycan be taken to be talking about Jews in general seems to be quite common among pro-Zionists (of course I mean the international conspiracy of you know who).
Is HP scummier than SU?Well...
But on the other hand, some people like their politcial debate of the knock down drag out playground fashion, and this libel action is more likely to have the effect of shifting "debate" to pure (or puerile, it's an eye-beholder thang) abuse from ptentially defamatory claims rather than cleaning the process up.
I see that Sunny Hundal has reversed position from supporting David T as a result of the attempt to join Andy Newman to the defence, resulting in a lively debate on a previous thread.I tend to agree with Sunny, and I think disagree with many her, when I feel that blog owners should not be necessarily held to account for what appears in their comment boxes, but do feel contra Sunny that when faced with a libel action this is a perfectly legitimate defence, and find Andy Newman's complaint that this will lead to the end of blogging as we know it fairly risible given the connections he has with the plaintiffs. Plus the several references to libel he made when using his position to abuse me. And yes I did find it a bit chilling.

4/08/2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Well look Brownie, if you're asking for a minimum of intellectual charity - and by asking me to assume HP's bullshit behaviour is motivated by principled leftist concern rather than malice, you definitely are - it would help if you didn't gild the lily quite so much. You're painting a ridiculously over-generous picture of HP's behaviour and offering the worst-possible interpretation of your political foes' actions.

Obviously the UCU mailing list is considerably more private than a blog like HP, all the more clearly since most of your coverage came from a source called "UCU whistleblower" rather than "UCU Voluntarily-Offered-Public-Information Researcher". As such, you're publishing correspondence that the authors expected to remain private, along with their email addresses and places of employment. Knowing as you do that academics are more at risk of dismissal because of ideas than most, the decision to throw these details out to the evil wingnuts in your comments can hardly be counted as a 100% innocent and well-intended act. This may not be exactly the same as personally contacting their employers and demanding they be sacked, but only the most brazen bullshitter would try to pretend that these are somehow different species of behaviour. They're the same shit, dawg.

Further, I recall protesting to David T. about this myself, since I thought it was unacceptable to put these details online for your loony readership to do with as they wanted. David rejected my complaint out of hand with much the same excuse as you and, IIRC, said something like "I think they're racists, ergo publishing their email addresses is fine".

It was only when a consensus developed among your (very few) non-insane commenters that HP was in danger of turning into RedWatch that David relented, and very grudgingly at that, I'll add. Without those complaints, they'd still be online today.

This is not so different to what you're talking about, is it?

Additionally, you're being disingenuous about Jenna Delich too. I recall that she linked to an article on David Duke's website that Duke didn't write himself and had been, as far as I can tell, previously published elsewhere. It's a really barking article but is not in itself tantamount to Mein Kampf, although even an idiot would spot the extreme lunacy of the website.

This is a serious error of judgement and it certainly invites conclusions of dodginess, but it's a far cry from "citing Duke as an authority". Had this been, say, a public figure of the stature of a Finkelstein, I'd have understood the witch-hunt. Sending your hideous readership after an unknown academic on the strength of an internet link strikes me as opportunistic bullying and intensely cynical mudslinging at the organisation she belongs to.

Nor am I surprised that she sought an injunction against you, since you published a photo of her and presided over a number of threads in which she was repeatedly attacked as a Hitleresque Nazi and her contact details and those of her employers were repeatedly posted and taken down. She herself says she received threats as a result...

http://hurryupharry.org/2008/08/22/ucu-and-the-david-duke-link/

...But of course, as HP loudly proclaimed at the time, it was they and not her who were the real free speech martyrs.

Again, this may not be identical to the treatment you're complaining of, but it clearly belongs to the same species of behaviour.

None of this justifies suing you, of course, and I think I've been pretty clear that I'm opposed to the suit. I'm just saying that if you regard harrassment of this nature as beyond the pale, you might want to take a look at yourselves first.

(Apologies for the gigantic post there, but this isn't a straightforward issue).

4/08/2010 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Delich's circulation of KKK material was dreadful.

It was, but I think it was more evidence of stupidity/ignorance/conspiratorial thinking. From memory (and its disappeared from the interwebs) the piece was (probably deliberately) borderline anti-semitism, aimed at reeling in those whose conspiratorial mindset makes them vulnerable.

The ironic thing about the whole episode is that a more sophisticated operation than Harry's Place would have used her, and the union's, embarrassment to push them away from the whole divestment campaign. Gently pointing out the dangerous waters they were wandering into, the risks to reputation, etc would have been far more effective than the hate-filled tactics they actually used.

4/08/2010 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Nightstudies said...

The ironic thing about the whole episode is that a more sophisticated operation than Harry's Place would have used her, and the union's, embarrassment to push them away from the whole divestment campaign. Gently pointing out the dangerous waters they were wandering into, the risks to reputation...

You're an incurable optimist.

4/08/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

I supported the divestment campaign.

4/08/2010 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

but do feel contra Sunny that when faced with a libel action this is a perfectly legitimate defence, and find Andy Newman's complaint that this will lead to the end of blogging as we know it fairly risible given the connections he has with the plaintiffs

No I don't think it's a legitimate defence because it isn't a defence at all to the actual case - it's a tactic by T to try and intimidate. And it depends who you refer to be "we" in "blogging as we know it". What this would mean if it succeeded would be that anything anywhere near a borderline libel would get deleted, since site owners couldn't trust their commenters to take responsibility for their own words. That wouldn't change things much at Aaronovitch Watch, but it would change them a hell of a lot at Harry's Place and Socialist Unity.

Also, Newman makes a fair point that he didn't "just" allow the libel to stay up - he argued against it and made it clear that the editors didn't agree with it. I'm not at all happy with a model under which the only acceptable thing to do is delete (and anyone who has ever said that the remedy for bad speech is more speech ought to agree with me), and I think that there is a sensible case for saying that the site owner is responsible for the comments thread in its entirety, rather than of each individual comment. If someone posts "Galloway is a [insert libel]" and I immediately respond "No he isn't, and I think that's libellous", then I don't see how the original poster gets to send me half his legal bill.

4/08/2010 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

What this would mean if it succeeded would be that anything anywhere near a borderline libel would get deleted, since site owners couldn't trust their commenters to take responsibility for their own words. That wouldn't change things much at Aaronovitch Watch, but it would change them a hell of a lot at Harry's Place and Socialist Unity.

Although (supposedly) it wouldn't change things very much at HP after all, what with NY state law and the rest of it.

not_Brownie, I'm genuinely relieved that you think me beneath your notice. As it goes, I'm a member of UCU, support the boycott campaign and have on occasion posted to my blog from work - if anything I've given my views rather more publicity than poor old Ms Delich, who was under the mistaken impression that she was sharing her views with a restricted circle of fellow activists. And I used to work for David Duke. But I'm genuinely, sincerely relieved to hear that you don't think I'm worth going after. See, I don't just hate and despise HP - I'm quite scared of you as well.

4/08/2010 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Oops, forgot the URL.

And I used to work for David Duke.

4/08/2010 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

This seems to be that piece endorsed by blah, cited by blah in an email carried by blah, objected to by blah, and accused of peddling blah tropes etc.

4/08/2010 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

No it was a different article, though the same author. It had a whole bunch of 9/11 conspiracy crap in it. It wasn't anti-semitic, but kind of bordered it. I can see somebody who was a bit naive following a link and not noticing the site it was on.

4/08/2010 03:40:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

dd - No I don't think it's a legitimate defence because it isn't a defence at all to the actual case - it's a tactic by T to try and intimidate.
Well then let's call it a defence (or perhaps a defense) tactic. T isn't the one threatening to bring this to court, I'd tend to say that he's entitled,like a criminal defendant, to use most tactics to try and muller it.Those who live by the sword...
I'm not at all happy with a model under which the only acceptable thing to do is delete (and anyone who has ever said that the remedy for bad speech is more speech ought to agree with me)
Not have your mates sue for libel for what's on your site under your control would be another. Why was arguing against it not sufficient if it was to be allowed to stay up?
I notice that Mister Harry has taken down his posts on the subject.
there is a sensible case for saying that the site owner is responsible for the comments thread in its entirety, rather than of each individual comment.
Maybe, but that's not how the law appears to work.
Furthermore, while I deplore the desire of David T & co. to knacker Palestinian solidarity, I do have a lot of sympathy for the points that it was a joke, it was about the wording of a T-shirt rather than a personal attack on either Mr.George or Mr.Kevin. More generally it is trying to pull into the legal sphere the contention of T that Galloway is a funraiser for a terrorist organisation, which if the issue was phrased like that, although I and along with most here might be with Galloway on the point of fact, it might be hard to get a judge to distinguish between Hamas the government and Hamas the launcher of rockets. Focusing on the T-shirt might seem to give a greater chance of success, but still seems to be substituting the law for political argument and not a welcome development.

I find myself with some difficulty picking words and then the word verification is "subbist".

Andy Newman had this to say at Dave's Place:
As it happens, I really didn’t know anything about it, although I have spoken to Kevin since about it.
He doesn't say whether he expressed any views as to the advisability of the case, perhaps he wishes he had now.

I have a lot of sympathy with Chris Williams' view here, though do err more on the blogging as libel free-fire zone side.

4/08/2010 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That link seems to go straight to the comments box, which is handy but not perhaps what was meant.

you're publishing correspondence that the authors expected to remain private

Toube is Newman, Newman Toube....

I'm disturbed that anyone can talk of cases of mistaken identity. The point is that anybody can fuck up once, and be sorry. But if it keeps happening, and there's no real evidence that they've changed their approach or their outlook, then the apologies cease to mean anything.

I think my problem with BB's view is that it seems to open the door to the tactic "I personally don't agree that George Galloway is an anti-semite, but I'm not going to delete the article-length comments that keep appearing on my site making that claim". Yes, it's true that people might have to delete borderline libels whenever they appear in comments and whenever they are contacted with complaints about same, but thing is - that's the risk youalways run win publishing. In publishing anything. You can publish a parish newsletter and get sued. There is never any guarantee against getting sued no matter how harmless your material seems to be.

4/08/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

it might be hard to get a judge to distinguish between Hamas the government and Hamas the launcher of rockets

Whether Hamas launches rockets isn't really the point at issue. (If someone said the IRA was dedicated to eliminating the Protestant population of Ulster I'd defend them to the hilt; that wouldn't mean I supported the IRA.) It's a double conflation, I think - between the mythical* genocidal Hamas and Hamas the government in Gaza, & between offering political support to H. the g. in G. and offering material support to the people of Gaza. I get the impression that Galloway would quite like to see a legal ruling on those equivalences, both of which are very questionable.

*Yes, I know the Charter isn't a myth.

4/08/2010 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

Flying Rodent,

I've seen the UCU mailing list discussions in full flow. They are not pretty and there's plenty more we could have posted. I have two Jewish friends who have felt compelled to leave the Union because, as Jews, they don't feel they fit. This is UK Trade Union for fuck's sake, one that has been doing everything in its power to bring about an academic boycott of Israel, something their own lawyers have told them would be illegal.

So when we are handed material that includes unequivocal anti-Semitic sentiment, the promulgation of well-worn Jewish conspiracy theories and - shock - a link to David Duke's site, we're supposed to keep schtumm because this means revealing the identity of some already willing to comment online (and not just on the UCU mailing list) using her real name and mentioning her place of employment?

Delich is paid by the state to lecture to students. She obviously considers herself politically aware. You object to my suggestion she was "citing Duke as an authority" even though she links to Duke's site and immediately follows this with the line:

"The facts speak for themsevles"

?

Yeah, she clealry thinks Duke doesn't know what he's talking about. Maybe look at BB's comments upthread about lawyerly analysis of the hair-splitting variety is in order.

4/09/2010 01:58:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

When people start deciding that they can cite support for an academic boycott in a discussion of unequivocal anti-Semitism, they do cast a certain amount of doubt on their identification skills in that regard. That you can find anti-Semitism at UCU, I don't doubt: that support for a boycott is to be considered among the evidence for it, I find objectionable.

Can I ask if other posters saw the fantastic Brownie v Dan Hardie spat on Crooked Timber the other day? Deeply embarrassing for both parties and for that matter for the spectators, but it did give some idea of how much leeway Brownie is prepared to give himself in characterising other people's views (specifically in telling us, on the basis of a supposed logical progression, that Mr Hardie was in favour of military dictatorships). People who like to do this, to say what people must logically think because of what they've supposedly said about something else, are the last people in the world who should be orchestrating the harrassment of other individuals on the basis of their opinions. Curiously, though, they're generally the first, in much the same way that people who are most keen on capital punishment are least keen on sticking to high standards of evidence and proof.

But you don't get it, do you, ah "not Brownie"? You don't go round encouraging people to harrass other people, or to take action that you know is likely to result in other people being harrassed. Not unless you have far, far better reason to do so than finding somebody else's views dislikeable. And if you do do this, and you keep on doing it, then all your protestations about being sorry, when it goes wrong, when it gets out of hand, or when you get the wrong person, are worthless. You like to give people a chasing. That's what you and your friends are. You're denouncers, people who like to get after other individuals and make their lives uncomfortable. People who behave like that are called bullies, and other people really don't like them. With very good reason.

4/09/2010 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

This is UK Trade Union for fuck's sake, one that has been doing everything in its power to bring about an academic boycott of Israel

what is strange or unusual about a UK trade union, for fuck's sake or otherwise, trying to vote for a boycott on Israel? Nearly every UK union has passed some sort of boycott resolution, as has the TUC. You might agree or disagree with this, but the time for being surprised by it was about ten years ago.

4/09/2010 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

she clealry thinks Duke doesn't know what he's talking about

It's already been pointed out, several times, that Duke didn't write the article under discussion. Suppose you approvingly link to an article by Conor Foley on LibCon. Would that amount to "citing Sunny Hundal as an authority"? Don't bother answering that.

I notice too that you've shifted from arguing that you don't 'out' people, to offering a public interest defence of the fact that you do.

we're supposed to keep schtumm

Most blogs manage to find a third way between

1. schtumm
2. witch-hunt

If, Brownie, you dedicated the same effort into exploring this middle-ground at HP as you do to defending its endless fuck-ups on other websites, I dare say you'd end up with less on your plate.

4/09/2010 08:18:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Not have your mates sue for libel for what's on your site under your control would be another. Why was arguing against it not sufficient if it was to be allowed to stay up?

No this can't be right from a legal point of view skidmarx. I don't think that the fact that Newman and Galloway are mates and members of the same political party can be given any legal weight unless it can be proved, to a courtroom standard, that either Galloway has de facto editorial control over Newman's site, or that Newman was responsible for the libel action being launched. The mere fact of someone being a mate doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to edit my blog to suit them, or at least a court can't presume that it does. In any case, precedents from this case (if it ever comes to court) will not just apply to situations where there's a tangled web of political relationships - they'll apply to us all.

I also don't agree that it necessarily is the case that blog owners can be considered publishers of individual comments on their blog (rather than the whole thread) - this is the basis of Toube's attempt to get Newman joined to him in the libel action, but it looks like a very contentious issue to me. Given that Smith vs ADVFN seems to have established that comments threads are to be considered more like a conversation than like a newsletter, I think it's very arguable the other way.

The point I'm making here is that (despite his atrocious judgement and lousy comments moderation policy, plus I think his website's dreadful), Newman is correct in saying that there's an important free speech issue here with respect to blog comments - that is, if the presence of "important" and "blog comments" in the same sentence passes the laugh test. You can view the relationship between a comments thread and the blog in two ways. Either, per Godrey v Demon, the comments are like a newspaper letters column and the blog editor is like the distributor. Or, per Smith v ADVFN, the comments are like a conversation and the blog editor is like the landlord of the pub where it takes place.

Clearly it's much better for people who want maximum free speech in blog comments (a group which doesn't necessarily include me) if the second model is followed rather than the first. But Toube's attempt to join Newman to his libel case very much depends on the first model being valid rather than the second. He's specifically trying to establish as a point of law that blog owners are responsible for each and every comment posted on their site. This seems very strange to me, given a) the cesspool which is the comments on HP, and b) that the front page posts on HP have all been in favour of the maximum-free-speech approach to libel reform.

The idea that (if I understand "not_Brownie" correctly which I might not) Harry's Place might engaging in all sorts of jurisdiction-shifting and legal structuring to try to ensure that they are not personally liable for comments posted on their website, while one of them is engaged in litigation to try and ensure that somebody else is made partly responsible for a libellous comment they posted, I find really quite difficult to understand. Do they think that blog owners ought to take responsibility for their comments sections or don't they?

Further

4/09/2010 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Brownie son, you asked what HP does that is similar to the harrassment your pals get. I've given you a few examples of very similar behaviour, and your argument now seems to have changed from "We don't do that kind of thing" to "It's okay when we do it, because".

Further, I doubt anyone here 100% endorses the UCU or would defend Jenna Delich to the nth degree. I raised problems with your version of these events because your excuse for HP's behaviour is their honest outrage at unacceptable behaviour, rather than politically-motivated and opportunistic witch-hunting horseshit.

Your response isn't going to cut much ice, given it's essentially special pleading for your own misbehaviour. As I've noted, even you yourself are quite happy to misrepresent your mates' actions in their defence, which surely calls your credibility into question.

So, to recap - your political opponents launch campaigns to get you fired for your activities, and HP launches campaigns to get their political opponents fired for their beliefs. Your opponents send their readers after you like the flying monkeys of Oz, and you do likewise to them. You are engaged in precisely the same type of behaviour, aren't you?

And Larry's point is one I've made to you in the past - to little avail, but what the hell. Don't you find it odd, how much of your time you have to spend chasing around the internet with your little mop and bucket, playing HP janitor for people who believe your mates are a shower of dishonest bullshitters?

I mean, there are two possibilities here - either the internet is filled with people who take irrational and suspicious exception to HP's schtick, or your mates actually are dishonest bullshitters. I realise that the former is an article of faith for the Decent Left, but that surely doesn't preclude the possibility that the latter is also true.

4/09/2010 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

He's specifically trying to establish as a point of law that blog owners are responsible for each and every comment posted on their site.

I agree this would be a truly awful precedent, and on that basis I hope it fails. I agree too that it has the potential to backfire on HP in the most spectacular fashion. All the same, I can't particularly blame DT for trying it on in this instance.

Purely on the ethics rather than the legalities, Andy Newman had a choice between a) deleting a comment when requested to by its author, potentially saving him many thousands of pounds, or b) refusing to do a for no very good reason except spite.

4/09/2010 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Phil - It's a double conflation, I think - between the mythical* genocidal Hamas and Hamas the government in Gaza, & between offering political support to H. the g. in G. and offering material support to the people of Gaza. I get the impression that Galloway would quite like to see a legal ruling on those equivalences, both of which are very questionable.
I get the impression that he is trying to to intimidate the Fleeing Saucerers into not making those equivalences by threatening to force them into court because of a comment that has to be constructed to be about him.

dd - I don't think that the fact that Newman and Galloway are mates and members of the same political party can be given any legal weight unless it can be proved, to a courtroom standard, that either Galloway has de facto editorial control over Newman's site
Quite possibly true, though that only serves to increase my conviction that libel law is not a reasonable method of settling political differences.Many of us might wish that HP would change their spots, but this doesn't seem like suing a national newspaper for accusations of corruption or a sleazy personal life, and bringing the law down on comment makers rather than blog owners may make life more comfortable for the latter, but does seem to shift the burden of avoiding libel further towards those more likely to have less understanding of the law and its consequences.
If we are agreed that freedom of speech, while perhaps not eclipsing responsibility to avoid libel, is more important, then until Galloway and co. can make a case that would stand up in a jurisdiction that has such First Amendment protection, then it would seem fair to defend the right of those scumbags at HP to fight this case more or less as they see fit, as they are the party of the right.
Also given the masses of Galloway/Respect material that appears on SU, maybe a case could be made that it is a house organ of Respect and Galloway and Newman are thick as thieves (meaning no intention to defame any thieves by suggesting they are stupid).

I think your point about the two models is valid if we accept a lesser of two evils approach to libel, my contention is that it would be better for the law to stay out of political argument as much as possible. On how the actions of HP fall between the two, I don't think it unreasonable when faced with legal action to defend yourself in such a way as may contradict your otherwise stated position.

4/09/2010 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

On the subject of blog owners' responsibility for comments made on their blogs, I don't think it reasonable to suggest they should be able to let absolutely anything stand without any repercussions, or that (in the absence of universal pre-moderation of comments) they can entirely prevent libelous comments from being posted. I think a sensible middle ground is for them to firstly have to receive a complaint about a specific comment and then if, after a reasonable time for consideration, they decide to let it stand they are then treated as the publisher of the comment and open to possible legal action.
So this is similar to the SU scenario in that Newman knew the comment was subject to a libel action and left it up anyway, so GG is entitled to sue him as well as Toube. But that doesn't mean he is obliged to - he is surely within his rights to just go after Toube if he so wishes, although this would seem to me to provide Toube with a defence because if GG is content to let SU keep the comment up without sanction then one has to wonder how libellous it really is.
And that doesn't excuse Toube's actions regarding SU - whilst its true that as blog owners we have to consider that we could potentially be held responsible for comments on our blogs, as commenters on other people's blogs we also have to consider this. Which means that if we want other blog owners to provide us with the space to air our views then we should be prepared to take total responsibility for those views.

4/09/2010 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

When people start deciding that they can cite support for an academic boycott in a discussion of unequivocal anti-Semitism, they do cast a certain amount of doubt on their identification skills in that regard. That you can find anti-Semitism at UCU, I don't doubt: that support for a boycott is to be considered among the evidence for it, I find objectionable.

Yeah, I think you need to consider the possiblity that just because two things are mentioned in the same paragraph, that the author does not necessarily conflate them logically. In this case, the point is that the private mailing list of a UK Union that is championing an illegal boycott of Israeli academics is replete with anti-Semitic discourse, which might explain why Jewish members are leaving that particular union. All of which is completely different to an assertion that wanting such a boycott is prima facie evidence of such anti-Semitism.

This is basic stuff, Justin. As was the rhetorical device I used in my spat with Hardie that left me asking whether he supported military dictatorships (for those not bored rigid, Dan likes to suggest that I should be forbidden from voicing support for wars becasue I'm not a soldier, so I asked if this logic extended to governments who take countries to war given liberal democracies like to have civilian - and therefore non-fighting - governments). This was explained at length, Jusitn. As I said at the time, call me out on crap logic extrapolation if you like, but don't pretend I actually thought Dan was a supporter of military dictatorship.

But you don't get it, do you, ah "not Brownie"? You don't go round encouraging people to harrass other people, or to take action that you know is likely to result in other people being harrassed.

You're getting very personal, Justin. As such, I'm entitled to ask you to produce one post of mine where I've done this. You can't seek refuge in the output of other HP posters as the tenor of your last comment is clearly an attack on me personally. The fact is, I don't do those sorts of posts saying "Here's what X did, write to him/her at xxxxxxxx". I just don't.

So the answer to your questions above, are "no" and "no". I don't do those things.

You know you dislike HP, Justin, this much I can tell. But based on your efforts here, you only *think* you know why.

I notice too that you've shifted from arguing that you don't 'out' people, to offering a public interest defence of the fact that you do.

Have I? As before, I'm not sure how you 'out' someone who is all over the internet posting as themselves using their work email address, but never mind.

So, to recap - your political opponents launch campaigns to get you fired for your activities

They are revealing the names, addresses and work detials of amateur bloggers who have tried to protect their identities so as to put pressure on employers to get the bloggers sacked from their real jobs as lawyers, teachers, IT consultants, etc., because they are posting in 'work' time, more like.

and HP launches campaigns to get their political opponents fired for their beliefs.

When a public figure - or someone who clearly is not seeking anonymity - attaches their name to stuff they've written that we find objecitonable, we call them out.

So many words, yet nothing on the fact that meembers of a minority group are having to leave a UK Union because anti-Semitic discourse within it is now mainstream.

Wait, I think David Aaronovitch just farted. Sramble! Scramble!

On the question of why there are "so many" HP detractors, I've never met a HP detractor:

a) that I wouldn't prefer was a HP detractor, or

b) that didn't have to dissemble when explaining why they were a detractor.

I can live with that.

4/09/2010 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Hang on - is "not Brownie" actually Brownie, adopting the pseudonym "not Brownie"?

That's brilliant. Happy weekend folks.

4/09/2010 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Brownie/not_Brownie: So many words, yet nothing on the fact that meembers of a minority group are having to leave a UK Union because anti-Semitic discourse within it is now mainstream.

What does this mean? (I don't meant the typo, BTW). I mean 'having to leave' (why not 'leaving'? why do they 'have to?'). And "anti-Semitic discourse within it is now mainstream." What does "mainstream" mean here? Are you saying that members of the UCU regularly make anti-Semitic remarks?

Anyway, back to the David T libel thing and blog/site owners' responsibility for comments. I don't agree with D2 here. I think I'm closer to Justin and Andrew Adams. I don't think my position has changed since my 'Is David T a Troll?' thread, but here are some more thoughts. George Galloway (GG hereafter)'s lawyers asked, inter alia, that David T remove his comment. Now I think this shows a lack of understanding of the web (and publishing in general) and a lack of research. They've also managed to go about things in an unnecessarily complicated way. Rather than write a long legal missive to DT as they did, to get the comment removed, they should have sent a 'friendly' email to Socialist Unity. We know already that Andy Newman considered DT's remarks to be libellous, and we also know that SU have a comments policy which warns users that they will delete some comments. (We also know from Martin Wisse and others that they also ban people they just don't like. I've never been clear why DT isn't in that category.) The thing here is, they don't seem to have taken steps to get DT's comment taken down; I therefore find it rather hard to believe that it can harm their client all that much. (Nor do I really give much credit to the argument that 'hundreds' of people may already have read it. Those hundreds are likely to be SU regulars and therefore very likely to be polarised in their views of GG. Who is DT supposed to have persuaded? Also, there used to be something known on the interwebs as an 'Instlanche' - a lot of hits following from a link from Glenn Reynolds. As long as a post is up, it can suddenly receive vastly more hits if a sufficiently influential blogger or commentator links to it. Therefore I would strongly recommend taking down a libellous comment or post - or placing a correction at the top of it.)

4/09/2010 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

cont...
As for whether GG was harmed by DT's comment, Andy Newman's position seems to be that because he and others argued against DT and gainsaid him, DT's comment was to some extent at least mitigated. If this is the case, does GG really need to sue for 50k (or 75k or whatever it now is)? If however, the fact that AN's arguing contra DT did not mitigate the impact of said comment, shouldn't it come down?

Now, I do believe that it's wrong and unfair to hold amateur blogs responsible for every comment that appears. But I think that once the site administrator is aware of a libellous (or otherwise illegal) comment and aware of that it defames or threatens someone, then I think they do have some responsibility for its removal. IANAL but terms like 'reasonable time' seem to apply here.

As Justin has said arguments like "It's only a blog" don't work: parish newsletters have been sued. I also feel (rather than think) that DT's counter claim that AN is jointly responsible is somehow wrong. (I think GG's lawyers may also be at fault for not contacting SU at the same time as their letter to DT.)

Finally, as I think many readers realise, I think that this will make life more difficult for Harry's Place, especially as several of the site admins appear to be conversant with UK law, and answer back to comments. If anyone does ever file a suit against an HP commenter, "we didn't know about the comment" and "we didn't understand the law" both appear unconvincing. Really, if you're going run a topical or controversial blog and allow unmoderated comments, you've got to accept that you've also taken on the responsibility for what appears on your site. Unlike 'not_Brownie' somewhere above, I really doubt that the identities of anonymous commenters can be ascertained.

4/09/2010 06:12:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I think I'll try to do a proper post on the legal issues here (or maybe write a begging letter to Jack of Kent), because although I think CC's argument is coherent and well stated here it's not an argument that David T is in a position to make. His defence on the actual case is that his comment was obviously a joke and that any factual content was clearly accurate - ie that it's clearly not libellous. Given this, I don't see how his case for bringing in Andy Newman in as a co-defendant can rest on the same comment being clearly bad enough that AN ought to have taken it down. If we put it out of our minds temporarily that AN and GG are mates (I know, I know), then I would have thought that a) given that the state of mind of the poster is relevant in establishing malice or in a defence of honest comment, it is perfectly possible for there to be a case against Toube but not against Newman no matter whether or not Newman is considered the publisher of the libel, b) therefore, GG is within his rights to sue Toube but not Newman, and therefore c) any attempt by Toube to drag Newman into his case is going to depend on a quite strong concept of responsibility that is taking UK libel law in a direction we really don't want it to go in.

Now, finishing our break from reality and remembering that AN and GG are mates, the question is whether Toube can prove in court that they are such close mates and political allies that it's unreasonable to suppose that Galloway couldn't have got the post down by asking Newman (in which case Galloway has clearly acquiesced in publishing it), or that Newman allowed the post to stay up in order to help Galloway establish his libel case (in which case, it seems quite likely to me that Newman has taken ownership of the post). In other words, I think that Toube basically needs to show bad faith on the part of GG and AN, but he's acting as if he doesn't, and if he wins his case he might end up setting a precedent that doesn't depend on an element of bad faith, which would be a bugger as such a precedent would be applicable to the rest of us.

The point about blog comments sections being different is not that "it's just a blog" - it's that it is a blog, or rather a real-time user-generated system and that post Smith v ADVFN, the courts seem to be prepared to actually hold comments sections to a lower standard than parish newsletters.

4/09/2010 06:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

From David T's point of view, I don't find it that disgusting or strange that he attempts to get SU/Andy Newman as a co-defendant -- I seem to remember that at least some journalists have done the same to their own newspapers, when they were sued personally. The law leaves defendants room for this and I can't blame David T. for using this, even if it is shitty for SU -- libel suits are costly after all...

4/09/2010 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Yeah, I think you need to consider the possiblity that just because two things are mentioned in the same paragraph, that the author does not necessarily conflate them logically

I did consider this, as it happens: and I found it impossible to see why you had mentioned it, in a discussion of apparently rampant anti-Semitism, unless it was somehow to connect to aforesaid rampant anti-Semitism. If not - why did you mention it? What function did it serve in your argument?

As I said at the time, call me out on crap logic extrapolation if you like

Well, I did - and would do again. You have a very bad habit of arguing against extrapolations from what you reckon are the logical consequences of what you reckon your adversaries have said. You then don't like to be called out on it. I do not think this is terrribly personally or intellectually responible.

Dan likes to suggest that I should be forbidden from voicing support for wars becasue I'm not a soldier

Does he? Where has he actually said that, or would you be extrapolating again?

4/09/2010 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think a sensible middle ground is for them to firstly have to receive a complaint about a specific comment and then if, after a reasonable time for consideration, they decide to let it stand they are then treated as the publisher of the comment and open to possible legal action.

I think this too, and I also suspect it might be pretty much the law as presently stands, albeit all sorts of questions of interpretation and individual circumstances might apply to any particular case.

I suspect that it's not proper to speculate too much on what - if anything - passed between Gorgeous and Newman, but I wouldn't take the view that SU was under George's control. I would however take the view that a court would not consider what passed between those two as irrelevant. At this int though I start asking - could a court order them to reveal any correspondence that had passed between them?

4/09/2010 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

Does he? Where has he actually said that, or would you be extrapolating again?

This, in a nutshell, is your problem Justin. You aren't nearly as well-informed about the (admittedly) tedious spats I might be having with my interlocutors as you think you are.

Dan and I have history going back years, and his consistent message to me has been that I should STFU about Iraq/Afghanistan as I don't have the guts to go and fight in either of these places. This culminated in his following me onto Facebook a few weeks ago sending me a message with the title: "I would have sent you a white feather but I don't know where you live". That's a "white feather" because I'm a coward, see. Sitting at home typing out my thoughts about this and that war...

So far as Dan is concerned, my opinions are invalid by dint of my not serving. I know this because he's been saying it for a few years now. So asking him whether he applies this logic just to me or whether he thinks the only people who should be able to send soldiers to war are other soldiers is nothing more than a logical extrapolation of his postion. Just so people didn't get confused, I did mention on the thread that I ddin't think Dan actually did support military dictatorships and that I was simply trying to demosntrate how stupid it was to claim that a civilian should venture no opinion on wars, but this hasn't prevented people - like you Justin - from misrepresenting me with gay abandon.

I really wouldn't mind all this sanctimonious lecturing about how horrible HP is if didn't come from people with their own, rather obvious faults.

4/09/2010 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

And after all the waffle...

I should be forbidden from voicing support for wars because I'm not a soldier

...did he actually say it, then? Where did he say it and what did he say?

As for what you did say: your comment is here. Later you claim that you obviously didn't believe what you were saying, but there is, I'm afraid, nothing in your original comment to suggest that. You attributed a position to Hardie and then attributed another position on the basis of "inescapable conclusion of logic". No qualifications, no if-we-were-to-argue-on-that-basis.

You do a lot of this: you say things, then don't like people calling you out on what you've said. I don't respect it.

4/09/2010 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

This is basic stuff, Justin.

Remind me again, where precisely is it written that HP posters are entitled to keep their own identities secret while using the real names of the people they address, even where those people are posting under pseudonyms?

(I confess, I used to be in the habit of using real names where I knew them - although I've never concealed my own, so the analogy is only partial. Also I stopped doing it when another commenter objected, saying it was presumptuous and overbearing. As it is - particularly where the person doing it is keeping their own identity secret.)

4/09/2010 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

For what it's worth, I'm perfectly happy with "Justin" - I'd use it myself, and in fact used to do so, but Justin McKeating got to the internet first so I started using my initials when commenting (as I already did when blogging) to avoid confusion.

It's true that there is a point of etiquette, and just as the fact that one uses a work email does not make it right to broadcast their address, just because on chooses to use a name when it suits one doesn't necessarily make it all right for others to do so. But for the record, it's fine.

4/09/2010 08:08:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

If I've breached some form of blogging etiquette, then I apologise. I know ejh is 'Justin' is all, although I don't recall how I know this other than it wasn't discovered by Googling you or using some other method to uncover your identity. It's out there somewhere.

And although "Brownie" is an pseudonym, it's not exactly a secret that I am David. My full contact details used to be on HP as one of the early authors and I've had to explain the provenance of my monicker several times after I've been accused of adopting Gerry Adams' pseudonym whilst he was in Long Kesh, this being another indication of my Provo tendencies and all.

4/09/2010 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Let me get this straight.

If someone posts to a private email list, that classifies as being "all over the internet" and a "public figure". Therefore it is perfectly legitimate to publish a pbotographs of them, and to publicise their name, address, and place of work to every nutter on the interweb. And if they then receive physical threats and demands to be sacked as they inevitably will, then... well, not my fault gov.

On the other hand, merely being an editor of a popular political blog does not qualify as being "all over the internet" or being a "public figure" and therefore such individuals are absolutely entitled to privacy and anonymity, and any breach of this is a serious violation of their fundamental human rights.

You could convince yourself of anything, Brownie.

4/09/2010 08:56:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

If someone posts to a private email list, that classifies as being "all over the internet" and a "public figure".

Jenna Delich didn't restrict her posting to the UCU list, but the salient point for us was that UCU mailing list was a haven for hare-brained, borderline and sometimes not so borderline anti-Semites or bigots who were only very rarely confronted by other members. I don't know how many posts were done using extracts from the UCU list, but it must have been dozens and the Jenna Delich one was just one example of this running topic at HP.

Therefore it is perfectly legitimate to publish a pbotographs of them,

No, it isn't, which is why the photograph was taken down. It should never have been put up, but the fact it was taken down shows this was, belatedly, acknowledged by us to be out of order.

and to publicise their name, address, and place of work to every nutter on the interweb.

Publishing address details is never justified, and I'm not aware this happened. I'm willing to be proven wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure we didn't do that. Did this happen in the comments?

It certainly *can* be acceptable to publish names and places of work in some very specific circumstances especially if that work is connected in some way to the commentary being criticised. So if a doctor was posting shite about MMR on a private list, for example, it might be acceptable to publish his/her name and ask people to write to the BMA to have him/her censured.

We can argue if this example is in any way analogous to the Jenna Delich incident, but I think the point of principle is that names and places of work are not sacrosant in ALL cases.

And if they then receive physical threats and demands to be sacked as they inevitably will, then... well, not my fault gov.

I think I'm already on record as I saying I'm not a big fan of this sort of blogging for at least some of the reasons you note above, although it has to be said that the nutbars out there who wind up writing to people threatening them with violence tend to be doing that sort of thing anyway without any encouragement from anybody.

You should see my inbox.

4/09/2010 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

It should never have been put up, but the fact it was taken down shows this was, belatedly, acknowledged by us to be out of order.

Uh, no Brownie, there was never any such acknowledgement.

4/09/2010 09:49:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

Uh, no Brownie, there was never any such acknowledgement.

You're probably sitting there with the thread in front of you. I'm not, but the picture went up and then it came down. So I think the message is clear. And internally, we discuss these things all the time. Suffice it to say, I know I speak for the majority of HP writers when I say the picture shouldn't have gone up.

4/09/2010 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

not_Brownie: I feel I have to side with Larry here. (Full disclaimer: I've met him.) Taking something down is clearly different from acknowledging same. IMO, the Guardian and the New York TImes get this right: when they make mistakes they all but bruit them from the rooftops.

OK, their detractors feel they can say "look at this long list of mishaps, of unfortunate writing etc", but that's better than never admitting mistakes, merely slyly altering the record. You're right: it was a mistake. It's possible to say sorry. Why is that so hard?

4/09/2010 10:50:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

Chardonnay Chap,

I taek the point, although I think the majority of sentient beings will conclude that when there is the following series of events:

1 - Picture is published
2 - Some readers complain
3 - Picture is withdrawn

that there is an implicit acknowledgement that we made a mistake. I'm not claiming that our actions were the same as a public act of contrition and I'm not going to spend time arguing against a suggestion that there ought to have been one.

4/09/2010 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

there is an implicit acknowledgement that we made a mistake.

Well, not when it's accompanied by an explicit denial of same.

But still, pull out the party poppers I say. This is about the closest I've ever seen to an acceptance of fair criticism from an HP editor.

You must be slipping, Brownie.

4/09/2010 11:13:00 PM  
Anonymous not_Brownie said...

This is about the closest I've ever seen to an acceptance of fair criticism from an HP editor.

Hmmm, it surprises me that you're surprised.

How many people contribute to this site? We have more than a dozen contributing writers and even more regular guest posters. We are united around some core themes but, guess what? - we don't agree about everything all the time.

I've accepted criticism of our blog and certain posts before and I will do again if I think the criticism is well-judged. My issue is not with criticism, but the hysterical misrepresentation of HP. For example, is there a left-leaning, moderately popular political blog that has posted more material about the BNP in the last 12 months? I don't think there is, yet not a day goes by without our writers and readers being described as right-wing, racist loons.

Given how many of us there are, how long we've been going and how prolific at least some of the authors are, it would be faintly surprising if we hadn't screwed up from time to time. Add to this the fact that our focus is deeply controversial subject matter to begin with (there aren't many posts at HP that just talk about how mean Tories are or how progressive taxation should be supported), and it's not difficult to understand how we've made enemies on the left. But none of this gives our detractors the right to just make shit up or, more regularly, give our posts the most ungenerous reading possible mixed with a default assumption of bad faith.

See any post from conrade Sunny any day of the week.

There is also the deliberate conflation of comments and posts. We know we have our fair share of loons - do you not think this pisses off the authors who spend time constructing a post only to have it trashed in minutes by big-mouthed tossers spouting utter shite? - but this is a direct conseuqence of our very light moderation policy. Now, there are pros and cons to such a policy and I confess to still being conflicted on the merits of granting commenting rights to Lee John Barnes, for example, but the consensus is that we want to have an open comments policy that means only overtly racist and threatening material will be deleted. It may be right and it may be wrong, but this is why you'll probably find more extreme views in our comments boxes than you might find at Pickled Politics, say. It's got nothing to do with the articles and is simply a function of how we choose to moderate, or not moderate. I will also say that, if people actually read our threads rather than simply pronounce on what they suspect they'd find if they looked, they will discover HP writers and many of the older commenters locking horns with the wingnuts at regular intervals. It's ironic that Graham comes in for as much stick as he does from our critics yet he has done more to confront LJB and the other bigots who pop up from time to time than any other contributor we have. Again, people who actually read our output rather than opine from positions of ignorance know this already.

Okay, enough special pleading for one night.

4/09/2010 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

it's not difficult to understand how we've made enemies on the left

It's not, and yet you don't understand it. It's the way you behave. That's the whole thing. It's not specifically where you stand, it's what you do when you're standing there. It's how you characterise the people you disagree with, it's the way you pick on people, it's the lack of scruple.

4/10/2010 07:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slagging of the BNP doesn't automatically make HP left wing. For example, the EDL.

Funny how Barnes gets to comment on HP, whereas those who point out HP's deficiencies from the left often get their comments pulled, isn't it?

Chris Williams

4/10/2010 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

but the consensus is that we want to have an open comments policy that means only overtly racist and threatening material will be deleted.

You realise that several people on this thread have had comments deleted by you guys, right? And not for racist or threatening material.

4/10/2010 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

...none of this gives our detractors the right to just make shit up or, more regularly, give our posts the most ungenerous reading possible mixed with a default assumption of bad faith.

You are the same Brownie who spent all that time pretending to be so very worried about Mehdi Hasan's supposed proto-Islamism, right? Is there any need to raise your buddies' endless, endless crap about the pro-Hamas/pro-anything nasty anti-war rallies etbloodycetera ad infinitum?

I take it that it isn't an ungenerous reading or a default assumption of bad faith when you do it, just like it isn't harrassment when your pals feed your mental commentariat the email addresses and employment details of people whose politics you don't like.

This isn't even funny any more. It's the same stuff that you're complaining about. Why do you think your mates should be cut the slack that they so determinedly and deliberately deny to everyone else, every day of the year?

4/10/2010 08:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brownie (trading as 'not Brownie'): "the most ungenerous reading possible mixed with a default assumption of bad faith."

That's an excellent summing-up. Well done.

Chris Williams

4/10/2010 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Funny how Barnes gets to comment on HP, whereas those who point out HP's deficiencies from the left often get their comments pulled, isn't it?

I keep hearing this from you guys but I really think you are confusing comments getting caught in the spam queue with comments being deleted. We discuss the moderation policy a fair bit and so far as I'm aware, none of the editors is deleting comments from any of you. if you think you've had a comment deleted, email me and I'll look into it. More than likely, it just needs to be released from the queue. This happens to my own comments from time to time, so there is nothing sinister about it.

4/10/2010 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Given this, I don't see how his case for bringing in Andy Newman in as a co-defendant can rest on the same comment being clearly bad enough that AN ought to have taken it down.
Can he not run multiple defence strategies?
"It's only a blog" don't work: parish newsletters have been sued.
But should they be?

4/10/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

Brownie/Not_Brownie - I keep hearing this from you guys but I really think you are confusing comments getting caught in the spam queue with comments being deleted. We discuss the moderation policy a fair bit and so far as I'm aware, none of the editors is deleting comments from any of you.

The way I could tell when my comments were being deleted and not "caught in the spam queue" was their appearance in the thread and then their disappearance. It usually happens when one of your editors loses an argument or looks foolish.

As I've said before; if you actually read your own blog you'd notice things like that. I can see it would diminish your appetite for defending it though.

4/10/2010 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Sonic said...

"Add to this the fact that our focus is deeply controversial subject matter"

Being in favour of the govts foreign policy, blindly supporting Israel and witchunting Muslims?

What an brave bunch you are.

As for deleting comments, how many times did I have comments deleted and get my ip banned by you Brownie (before I decided to stop enabling your sillyness)

Really Brownie, you do only have a passing knowledge of reality mate.

4/10/2010 11:20:00 PM  
Anonymous KB Player said...

Compare this statement by Sonic:-

"Harry’s Place is registered and hosted in the United States"

Where they have friends who can pay the bills?

Is it paranoid to see a link between HP and this?

http://file.wikileaks.org/file/cia-afghanistan.pdf”

To this statement by Sonic:-

“Really Brownie, you do only have a passing knowledge of reality mate.”

4/11/2010 04:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Sonic said...

Still not caught up with that difficult concept called a "quip" KB Player?

You must fit in nicely with the rest of the Saucer people.

4/11/2010 09:48:00 PM  

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