Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Keep it Clean & Polite

I’m very concerned at some of the language that’s flying around other weblogs and one in particular with a strong political bias.

On a personal note, I believe that Thanet can do without the politics of the playground descending into name-calling and personal attacks on individual members of the council. If this standard of behaviour is what we are to expect from our local political representatives then it’s the people of Thanet who are the losers.

There is no place for spiteful, personal animosity in local politics. It may look like a football match at times and the emotions and language have their parallels but as May approaches, local people deserve intelligent adult behaviour from their councillors and their supporters and not the political mud slinging that’s already started to surface.

One more thing to consider when writing a weblog in this country is that so-called political free-speech does not follow the rights set-down in the US constitution:

Anonymity on a weblog does not protect an individual from our own domestic libel legislation. Libel is an extremely expensive trap to fall into and you should remember that anything you write that might be reasonably deemed to be malicious, incorrect or personally offensive has a global reach:

Bloggers must also be aware of their responsibilities as hosts of discussions where comments are invited from readers. Any defamatory comments made in other posts on the blogger's website may result in the blogger being held responsible for those comments and being sued for libel.”

A libel action could easily cost you your home; a weblog lacks the same public interest defense that a newspaper might argue. I fought and won a case through the High Court some years ago and it cost me a huge amount in legal expenses, so its best to remember that in the political Blogspace, a polite society is best for everyone. Never call anyone a name or allow them to be called anything offensive on your weblog unless you have deep pockets and are legally adventurous. Be witty and above all, never question anyone’s reputation or integrity unless you are prepared to support your opinions in court, in front of an ageing judge who probably won’t know what a Blog is.

22 comments:

Michael Child said...

People are inclined to forget that the last true constitution in England was under Cromwell, while much can be legislated, precedence counts for a lot in our rule of law. Still that awkward jury made of ordinary people saying, “keep it clean” while the press may be impressed by a little sleaze, it is always as well to remember its those ordinary people who vote. Of course you can play dirty if you can find the right beak, in my business a lot of expensive litigation was saved by the words of one judge, not so old, I think about 50 at the time. Mervyn Griffith-Jones. Commenting on a book by D H Lawrence, about a gamekeeper etc. “Is this a book you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?” When using the internet some people are inclined to forget anonymity is relative, however reading some of the comments posted by people who think they are being secretive about their identity, one can understand why they crave a vestige of even bogus caution.

DrMoores said...

Well said Michael but seriously a person's anonymity exists only until Google or anyone else receives notice of a writ or what's called a Notice and Taekdown request.

Lord Lucan said...

I like my anonymity but do not regard it as an excuse to libel others or to descend into vulgarity. The Doc can identify by ISP number as can the long arm of the law, so I had better make myself scarce.

DrMoores said...

Well said Lord Lucan, Thanks to the wonders of IP science and a small subscription fee, marrying-up an IP address with a physical address isn't a huge problem anymore!

Eastcliff Richard said...

Er, are any of these barbed comments aimed at me? I thought I'd been quite polite about you standing for parliament, considering how rude you've been about me in the past!

DrMoores said...

No in fact, you've been more than civil today, thank you. I'm simply concerned that blogging from some sources could turn into unpleasant mud-slinging prior to the May elections and will make local politics even more unpalatable then many think it is already!

You may take the p*** but I would truly like to see a more intelligent standard of debate in some places than I've seen to date and which has forced me to switch on comment moderation here.

I'm certain you want Thanet to be a better place to live for all of us and so do I and I'm prepared to roll-up my sleeves and try and help. I can see how people become involved in local issues through a number of different weblogs and I believe that the reach it offers should be used sensibly, satirically and without descending into cheap political spite.

I suppose we could have the Blackadder "Pitt the Even Younger" installment as an educational film instead!

tony flaig bignews said...

Simon I may be missing something here, just exactly when were you appointed guardian of acceptable behavior in local blogging circles.

Lighten up !

Dont tell us your a lawyer as well, on the question of libel, some months back I received a great deal of abuse some of which I could have reported to the police, in addition there were sites making outrageous claims about me, I would image a lawyer could have had a field day, but whats the point.


I'm sure you mean well but politics is a dirty game so just accept it.

Good luck did send you a good luck message with a humorous political comment earlier but either it got lost or was a victim of censorship. (I only delete advertising and the occasional death threat).

Again good luck

DrMoores said...

Tomy..Thanks for the good luck message althought I haven't seen it!

I'm not appointing myself a guardian of acceptable behaviour but I am pointing out, for those who don't understand it.. where the law sits as regards online defamation. Which may be useful one day!

stuart said...

Good grief! Here we go again! Who has called you a name this time Simon?

DrMoores said...

Nobody has called me anything but if some bloggers aren't bright enough to realise the risks they are taking with some of their content, then it's only kind to point it out.

Anyone on principle or with money to "invest" could do very well indeed from a personal libel action!

stuart said...

Do you include yourself in that? Surely you have made your personal opinions in the same way somewhere on this here blogsite?

stuart said...

Do you include yourself in that? Surely you have made your personal opinions in the same way somewhere on this here blogsite?

DrMoores said...

I can't believe you asked me such a question having just read what I've written on the subject!

It's very simple. If you make any defamatory remark or comment about anyone and publish the same then you need to be able to defend your opinion in the courts if you are challenged. Newspapers frequently pay six figure sums in damages for the same privilege.

Now if the person at the focus of the remark enjoys a high public standing or reputation then the damages awarded, can of course be much higher than "bloggins" of Thanet who may not enjoy the same privileges.

Thus.. If you in a comment on your own or someone else's weblog, call another person a **** whatever that might be or challenge their personal inegrity, then it is conceivable that the aggrieved individual could pursue you in court and you could lose your house should you be unable to prove that Mr X is a ****

It's a little more complex than this of course but I think you get the drift.

So, never, never be abusive online. There's no such thing as free speech in this context and it's almost as bad as thinking you live in a democracy!

Anonymous said...

IP numbers can easily be diguised, how do think people can get away with pirate mircrosoft software. There are many websites that can be logged onto that can change IP numbers and it is a on going battle microsoft has to deal with. Before anyone asks my software is all legal and paid for.

DrMoores said...

True, IP numbers can be spoofed.. i.e. "Anonymiser" but it's a great deal of effort to go to and beyond the knowledge of most of our readers here. Plus even anonymiser has to deliver details to the Feds since 911 if I recall. Probably not a subject area you want to debate with me as I advise Microsoft and wrote their internal market security assessment!

Anonymous said...

As you are entering the dirty world of politics is this blog meant as a warning shot across the bows to anyone who might be aware of your closeted skeletons????

DrMoores said...

On reflection, it might give that impression but it's not intended that way. However, now you mention it, if I saw anything like the malicious invective I've seen flying around describing others of late directed towards me, then I would be most unlikely to ignore it.

Anonymous said...

You have to have a very thick skin if youre going to play in the political arena and open yourself up to public scruitiny. I am an avid follower of your blogs, but wonder whether you are not overtly sensitive when it comes to criticism. If you bite too quickly you run the risk of people wondering what lies behind.

DrMoores said...

Intelligent criticism I welcome, personal abuse and bad manners I find harder to tolerate. It's always been a case of "Honest, decent truthful" where this weblog is concerned and I don't want to see a situation where the medium is corrupted in an effort to score cheap political points where the content is libellous, defamatory, untrue or all three together!

Tony said...

Ed, as you know a bit about computors, unfortunately I don't but do you reckon hidemyass.com is good enough to avoid any libel in dear old blighty should perhaps I may need it one day.

DrMoores said...

Tony.. Hidemyass.com is "An anonymous free proxy service aimed at hiding your online identity" however, if you commit an offense which may give the US authorities reason to wish to know who you are, running through a proxy server won't be of much help under legislation passed since 911. It's a bit different where the UK s involved and really depends on how serious the offense is as what's calle "Mutual Legal Assistance" is required and this is a slow process but a reason why many paedophiles can be hoovered up from US sites when many of them are, I'm sure smart enough to use proxy servers!

Tony said...

Ed, sometimes I just wish in this world there would be something we could all enjoy without somebody exploiting it.