Interesting one here. I wonder what would have happened had Yahoo not been able to trace back the writer of the message - could Yahoo have been liable? In other words, would Yahoo have been considered like a newspaper that prints libel (ie guilty) or like the owner of a graffitoed wall (ie not guilty). Any get-out clause the message board may print is usually not worth the paper it is not written on.
Doesn't this tie in with the French Court ruling that Yahoo, unless they could guarantee no anti-semitic/Nazi content on their sites, are banned in France? So in French law they are considered to be like a newspaper in some respects. And certainly responsible for their own content.
To be like graffiti, they would have to say in effect that they "never meant the wall to be written on". But that is patently not true, as their facilities in this case were set up specifically to be written on. (All this is my expert opinion, based on one year's law study :) ) The 'not my responsibility' gambit went down like a lead ballon in France.
>could Yahoo have been liable?
No, as I understand it, Yahoo, AOL, etc. fall under a special class of board host that relieves them from liability as publisher. A private board might, however, be classified as a publisher -very confusing.
>French Court ruling that Yahoo
That whole French Court business is a great topic with ecommerce ramifications worth our consideration.
"Yahoo, AOL, etc. fall under a special class of board host that relieves them from liability as publisher."
Extremely odd. This could, of course, be a ruling limited to the United States. Does anyone know of a case where someone in the States has tried to sue Yahoo for libel, but failed because they were not seen as responsible?
>Extremely odd. This could, of course, be a ruling limited to the United States
Yes, and given the strong international bent of WmW, that's an important limitation. Boards/forums/websites might easily run afoul of any particular country's legal system. Though not an anonymity issue, Yahoo certainly found that out in France.
>>someone in the States
It isn't Yahoo, but I know of two people who have a very good cause for complaint agains some online community that has strict prohibition against anything potentially libelous or slanderous in their terms of service, and has knowingly left some very public message board posts up that are very damaging to the character of the two people in question. And both of those people have extensive documentation of exactly what happened that led to the posts being made. All parties, and the site, are in the U.S.