In relation to online libel…

Tracy Williams, a college lecturer from Oldham, was ordered by a high court judge to pay £10,000 in damages, as well as Mr Keith-Smith’s £7,200 costs, and told never to repeat the allegations.
The case is one of the first of its kind between two private individuals to go to court and, said lawyers, highlighted issues that would become more prominent as internet usage continued to grow and blogging, social networking and community sites became yet more popular.

From the Guardian, last month. The title of this post sets out some of the allegations. Sounds like a membership list at the (deleted to protect one’s ass).

According to the Times, this is the first case where the (UK) High Court has awarded damages for libel based on bulletin board postings (a previous successful case related to a comment on Friends Reunited). Annoyingly, the Guardian refers to it coming from the ‘dark side of the blogosphere’ (because obviously, blogs, BBSes and all that Interweb stuff is all the same).

Yahoo! weren’t! sued! in! this! case! (it was their boards that were the location for the wall-scrawlings), but certainly the idea of moderator or publisher liability has been discussed a lot, in the US, UK and elsewhere. This different question of confirming that it’s possible to sue and win for online libel is less difficult from a legal point of view, but still significant in actually having happened. Incidentally, it’s reported ([2006] All ER (D) 297 (Mar) via Lexis) that:

Having obtained an order requiring the operator of the site to disclose the defendant’s identity, the claimant issued proceedings in libel.

Which is also interesting, and certainly a factor contributing to the success of the case (originally, he was identifiable, but she was a nonny mouse).