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European Court Rules News Portals ARE liable for offensive comments left by readers

European Court of Human Rights

On the 10th of October the European Court of Human Rights made a preliminary ruling that could concern any “News Portals” that operate online in Europe. This ruling came about when a Ferry operator in Estonia took an Estonian paper to court after it’s readers left derogatory and offensive views in the comments section of a story concerning the Ferry operator. In the Estonian courts the newspaper was held liable, however they chose to challenge this decision as a breach of their human right to freedom of expression. This ruling opens up the possibility that courts within the European Union may choose to allow further law suits broadly based around the same topic.

We asked Steve Kuncewicz from Bermans of Liverpool, who specialise in commercial law for businesses, whether this would affect any UK based platforms. His response was;

“This decision won’t affect many UK based platforms or sites as they are already obliged to remove any content that is complained about to be able to rely on their “mere conduit” defence under the E-Commerce regulations. What it means, however, is that sites which have a pan-European reach may now change their practices and not simply be able to rely on automated reporting processes.” 

All of that seems fairly straight forward then. Though at PushON we fully expect that when this ruling is finalised certain papers, such as the Guardian which recently swapped from a .co.uk domain to a .com domain to cater to the US and European markets, will have to begin moderating their comments sections with greater diligence than previously experienced.

Given our experience as social media consultants we cannot help but wonder if these rulings will see other mediums that can be accessed across Europe where users can leave unmoderated comments, such as Facebook, having to be moderated in the same way as their news portals moving forward.

If you want to reads the release issued for this ruling you can find a copy here.

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