It’s that man again, Mr Justice Eady.
Defamation on internet bulletin boards is more like slander than libel, a High Court judge has ruled. Mr Justice Eady said that bulletin board discussions are characterised by “give and take” and should be considered in that context.
In a multi-defendant lawsuit concerning posts on an investors’ bulletin board, Mr Justice Eady said that comments on a board are not to be taken in the same context as those in, for example, a newspaper article.
He said that the casual, conversational nature of bulletin boards meant that defamatory comments were more like slander than libel. Slander relates generally to spoken comments and libel generally to written and published ones. In English law it is harder to win damages for slander than libel.
“[Bulletin board posts] are rather like contributions to a casual conversation (the analogy sometimes being drawn with people chatting in a bar) which people simply note before moving on; they are often uninhibited, casual and ill thought out,” he said in his ruling. “Those who participate know this and expect a certain amount of repartee or ‘give and take’.”
“When considered in the context of defamation law, therefore, communications of this kind are much more akin to slanders (this cause of action being nowadays relatively rare) than to the usual, more permanent kind of communications found in libel actions,” said the ruling. “People do not often take a ‘thread’ and go through it as a whole like a newspaper article. They tend to read the remarks, make their own contributions if they feel inclined, and think no more about it.”