Japan, not often at the centre of the Internet stage, made history last week when one of its courts ruled that the country's leading online service was responsible for defamatory information posted about one of its users.
Nifty, which owns Niftyserve, a kind of mini-CompuServe with 2 million members, was ordered by The Tokyo District Court to pay Y500,000 (#2,650) to a 36-year-old woman. The woman claims false information was posted about her on a Niftyserve chat forum.
During the case, the woman named the man who posted the remarks about her as well as the sysop.
According to John Linwood, MSN's group program manager, it is the sysop's job to ensure such occurrences do not happen. "We have a member's policies unit who decide what content should and shouldn't go on the forums or discussion boards. We also have software that screens for obscenities and the like. Our forum managers are responsible for making sure this type of thing doesn't happen," he said.
According to court statements, anonymous postings about the woman were left on the service in November 1993. These continued for about six months and when the woman demanded the name of the person responsible for them. Niftyserve refused, but did remove the messages. However, after a period of about three weeks, they reappeared.
In his ruling, judge Hideho Sonobe said: "Moderators are responsible for removing material that may defame conference members when they become aware of such material. The company was also responsible for damages, since it should have supervised the moderator's work."
Toughie this one ... If you own a web site and have people posting abusive comments about one another, you have to decide whether the remarks will affect the site.
Obviously, if foul language is being used unnecessarily and the postings are of no use to the forum, they should be pulled. Isn't that a restriction of freedom of speech? Email your opinions to [email protected]
Also, what's a USB stick?
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