Don't let internet linked stories land you with a libel writ - Press Gazette

Don't let internet linked stories land you with a libel writ

I saw a court report about a dodgy curry house on a magazine’s website.

The curry house had been prosecuted after a rat appeared during an environmental health inspection.

The court report was safe. It was protected by absolute privilege. But, the magazine’s website automatically generated a possible libel against another restaurant.

When readers clicked to read the original court report, a pop-up headed ‘Similar stories’ flagged up a link to a meal review on another restaurant in the same area of south London. This link named another restaurant.

But the two stories were not similar at all. The ‘similar’ review was highly complimentary. And the owner wasn’t happy about his establishment being called ‘similar’ to the one with the rat.

On another occasion, a ‘similar stories’ aggregator picked up an archived story that named a woman who had since been given anonymity as a rape victim, and displayed it on the home page.

Online publishing can be risky! And the  dangers are growing daily, as the law finally catches up with technology.

This is why I have published the second edition of my eBook, Internet Law. It covers the many dangers facing internet publishers.

Readers can check risks either by spheres – for example, Facebook, Twitter, Message Boards, archives etc. Or they can check them by individual laws – libel, Data Protection Act etc.

Tim Crook, visiting professor of broadcast journalism, Birmingham City University, and reader in media and communication at Goldsmiths and Head of Media Law & Ethics, has kindly recommended the eBook.

He said: "This book is an invaluable tool and educational resource. I could not recommend it more highly."

Cleland Thom runs distance learning courses in media law

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