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Farewell to freedom of speech as our masters attack our right to know what they’re up to

I’m sure all readers will know about our politicians’ attempts to muzzle a free press here in Britain. Desperate to get revenge on the newspapers for publishing stories about MPs’ expenses, the liars and thieves in Westminster are using the excuse of the phone-hacking scandal to restrict what papers can publish.

But a much more chilling attack of our freedom of speech has just come from the EU. A news website in Estonia published a piece that criticised a ferry company which changed some routes. Like most websites, this one had the facility for readers to leave their comments. Apparently, quite a few readers left rather unflattering (potentially libellous) comments about the said ferry company.

Like most websites, there was a function on this one where anyone unhappy with any comments could report them to a moderator, who could then choose to delete them. A shareholder in the ferry company didn’t use the “report comment” facility. Instead they wrote to the website asking for the defamatory comments to be removed. The website removed them as soon as it got the letter of complaint, but by that time the comments had been displayed for about 6 weeks.

The shareholder then sued the website for defamation, even though the shareholder could have had the comments removed immediately by using the “report comment” function. The case went to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which ruled in favour of the shareholder against the website. The ECHR judgement reads like a line out of a Kafka or Orwell novel:

“The court considers that the applicant company, by publishing the article in question, could have realised that it might cause negative reactions against the shipping company and its managers and that, considering the general reputation of comments on the Delfi news portal, there was a higher-than-average risk that the negative comments could go beyond the boundaries of acceptable criticism and reach the level of gratuitous insult or hate speech.”

“It also appears that the number of comments posted on the article in question was above average and indicated a great deal of interest in the matter among the readers and those who posted their comments. Thus, the court concludes that the applicant company was expected to exercise a degree of caution in the circumstances of the present case in order to avoid being held liable for an infringement of other persons’ reputations.”

Prior to this ruling by the ECHR, news (and any other) websites could rely on the fact that they had a “report comment” function to avoid liability for any defamatory comments posted by readers. Following this ruling, websites are expected to anticipate which stories might attract negative comments from readers and then to actively moderate all comments on such stories before they are posted.

If this ruling is upheld in the ECHR’s Grand Chamber, it will put a crushing extra workload and thus financial burden on websites and will inevitably lead to severe restrictions on us plebs’ ability to comment on what our masters are up to.

Surprisingly, this important story was picked up by the sycophantically pro-EU, socialist Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2013/oct/11/online-comments-websites-court-ruling-Estonian

Welcome to the EUSSR

5 comments to Farewell to freedom of speech as our masters attack our right to know what they’re up to

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