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Media Organizations Join Forces to Fight Canadian Ruling

samzenpus posted more than 9 years ago | from the if-you-don't-have-anything-nice-to-say dept.

Media 313

csaila writes "Some of the world's big media outlets (including CBC, CNN, Guardian, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, Reuters, and -- as well as Amazon, AOL, Google and Yahoo) are appealing a Canadian court ruling threatening both free speech and the Net. The ruling stems from a former UN employee who successfully sued the Washington Post in Ontario for libel, arguing that because the Post's Web site carried the story. his reputation had been "damaged" in that province."

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313 comments

Err, no (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898289)

Perhaps this ruling might threaten the US' part of that thar intarweb, but I don't think the rest of the world's 'free speech' on the web will be too affected.

Re:Err, no (1)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898421)

I agree (except that it's Canadian). How is parent troll? This is not some international treaty signed by several countries. And the same thing goes for all "free speech", "journalistic freedom" etc., stories about USA that come on slashdot. It's just USA, it's not the entire world.

Re:Err, no (1)

CapeMonkey (795733) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898716)

Someone in Ontario sued the Washington Post for a story on the internet that saw print before he even moved to Ontario. I also live in Ontario. Say I am accused of some impropriety and the story sees print in the London Telegraph or Le Monde or the Mail & Guardian from South Africa on one of their websites. I am later cleared. Based on the ruling, I should be able to sue those papers successfully.

This is not some US-centric thing, and to state that it only affects the American presence on the web is extremely shortsighted - the ruling already reaches across one international boundary, there is no reason why it can not reach across others.

Vietnamese People = Backstabbers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898290)

Vietnamese People = Backstabbers

Don't trust them. Most are crooks and will betray you at every chance.

Re:Vietnamese People = Backstabbers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898483)

go back to your trailer, your mom is calling you

Speaking of which... (3, Funny)

Nuclear Elephant (700938) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898292)

Washington Post in Ontario for libel, arguing that because the Post's Web site carried the story. his reputation had been "damaged" in that province.

Talk about poor journalism. Isn't that supposed to be a comma after story?

Re:Speaking of which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898310)

No. That's called a comma splice. Either capitalize the "h" in "his," or put a semicolon after "story."

Re:Speaking of which... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898342)

Read it.

Re:Speaking of which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898350)

That's retarded. Have you ever heard of a dependent clause?

Re:Speaking of which... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898327)

Congrats of being the first Slashdotter arguing over no less than two pixels of inaccurate text.

Re:Speaking of which... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898353)

Well technically most are arguing about no less than two pixels. And if you meant no more than two pixels you'd be wrong too, except for font-size=stupid the full stop character is going to be at least four pixels.

I have asked the National Association of Pedants to revoke your membership.

Re:Speaking of which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898372)

I have asked the National Association of Pedants to revoke your membership.
There is no such organization. Furthermore, if there was, it most certainly wouldn't choose such a demeaning name.

Re:Speaking of which... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898583)

Damn, just realised, the difference between a comma and a full stop is indeed two pixels in the font sizes being discussed.

I have asked the National Association of Pedants to revoke my own membership.

Re:Speaking of which... (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898605)

font-size=stupid, you say? My Firefox doesn't seem to support this; should I try the CVS version?

Re:Speaking of which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898658)

...should be one before 'because' too :p

Canada Eh? (3, Funny)

xsbellx (94649) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898295)

Just goes to prove, when it comes to court rulings, we can be just as brain-dead as our beloved American cousins!

I am embarassed to be an Ontarian (0, Flamebait)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898296)

For once, I hope the CBC can be part of something good here.

Re:I am embarassed to be an Ontarian (2, Interesting)

PoprocksCk (756380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898309)

I'm a little embarassed too, but if the ruling is upheld, I will gain more confidence in the system than ever before. Everyone makes mistakes, I guess that's inevitable. But if the mistakes can be fixed with few or no repercussions, then there's no point in holding a grudge I suppose.

Re:I am embarassed to be an Ontarian (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898686)

I too am embarassed, by your ignorance. You do realize the Post published lies right? The press has ruined many a life over the years, it's about time someone bit back.

Freedom of speech is about the freedom to state opinion or fact and when stating facts the onus is on the speaker to backup those facts.

Good to hear (2, Funny)

PoprocksCk (756380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898297)

I'm a Canadian, so this partially affects me. I think it's good that we have corporations and organizations at our back defending our right to say what we want to say on the Net.

Even though they don't really give a rat's ass about us personally (they probably somehow see this is as potential harm to their revenue) I'm glad they're stepping in and doing something about it.

Mr. Bangoura said, "I have total confidence in our system of justice." So do I.

Re:Good to hear (1)

Everleet (785889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898386)

Mr. Bangoura said, "I have total confidence in our system of justice." So do I.

How can you have total confidence in something you just watched fail? Or is that "total confidence that one might be able to undo some of the damage, if he has enough money"?

"I have total confidence in our system of justice" (1)

domQ (760908) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898612)

It's an epitaph right?

Re:Good to hear (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898736)

I'm a Canadian too, and while I may love this country, I know better than to trust (or I should say "have confidence in") the legal system. It isn't that different from the US legal system when it comes to court procedure/rulings, and I would know based on my current employment. That aside, hopefully we'll see some repair work done to restore the ability to publish freely - on the web or elsewhere - but who's to say the media is better than the legal system in terms of trustworthiness? (queue creepy music while I put on my tinfoil hat...)

Not sure I get this one. (5, Insightful)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898299)

The newspaper moved to have the case dismissed and argued that if it were allowed to proceed in Ontario, any news organization could be sued anywhere over material posted on its website.

Their defense doesn't appear to be "What we posted that got him fired was truthful", but rather that if you allow the lawsuit to proceed that you could hold anyone responsible for what they post on the Internet anywhere in the world.

On the one hand, how do you protect true speech if someone who posts it can be sued everywhere in the world, but on the other hand how do you protect everyone in the world from people posting false speech?

Re:Not sure I get this one. (3, Interesting)

damian cosmas (853143) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898330)

Not sure I get it either. It does seem suspicious that the suit was able to be successfully filed in Ontario instead of DC, but other than the venue, this is just a plain old libel suit.

Arguing where the suit is allowed to be filed is just what you do when you're uncertain of your ability to win on the facts ;)

Depends on the libel laws (4, Informative)

wiredog (43288) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898377)

In the US the plaintiff has to prove that what was said was false, and in a case such as this, that there was malice. In the UK the defendant has to prove that what was said is true, which can be much more difficult, especially if off the record sources are used.

Re:Depends on the libel laws (1)

damian cosmas (853143) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898399)

In the US the plaintiff has to prove that what was said was false, and in a case such as this, that there was malice. In the UK the defendant has to prove that what was said is true, which can be much more difficult, especially if off the record sources are used.

Right. But what about Canada?

Re:Depends on the libel laws (2, Informative)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898530)

While I don't know for sure (IANAL) I know that Canada, being a British colony, actually uses caselaw that predates Confederation - that is, Canadian courts use British caselaw that exists from before the time that Canada became a soveirgn nation. So, if the British policy on libel predates Canada, then yes, the same law will apply.

Re:Depends on the libel laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898619)

In the US the plaintiff has to prove that what was said was false, and in a case such as this, that there was malice.

If that's true then US law is really messed up.

I say that you, sometime in 2004, molested a number of children. Now prove that false.

You might as well not have a law against libel.

Re:Not sure I get this one. (1)

hrieke (126185) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898531)

Simple, people will shop for the most sympathetic courts in the world. Hello 3rd world junita courts.

However - most courts will only take the case if one of the aggieved parties has a strong tie to the local community.

This is the one case where I really do hope the American laws prevail. (Sorry to everyone else)

Re:Not sure I get this one. (3, Insightful)

hyphz (179185) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898363)

> Their defense doesn't appear to be "What we
> posted that got him fired was truthful", but
> rather that if you allow the lawsuit to
> proceed that you could hold anyone responsible
> for what they post on the Internet anywhere in
> the world.

And I think it's probably overblown and paranoid.

Yea, it means that if a US citizen libels someone in the UK, say, then the UK citizen can sue them *in the UK* because they've suffered damage there. Except it doesn't mean that at all since, after all, what can the UK court do? Put him in prison? He's not in the UK. Make him pay a fine? His money's not in the UK. They'd have to get these things from the US, and the US would refuse.

Now, if it was a UK citizen who libelled a US citizen, this decision would mean they might wind up standing trial under US libel law. Except it doesn't mean that at all, because this has always been the case, not because of this court decision but because of the US's volume of muscle. Just ask that nice Mr Skylarov.

Personal Jurisdiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898560)

So, in a nutshell you are saying that they (the court) need both Subject Matter Jurisdiction (location of the tort of defamation), but also Personal Jurisdiction (the power to enforce the court's will upon the defendant).

And, that while the court may have Subject Matter Jurisdiction, they will only rarely have Personal Jurisdiction (unless you have business assets or physically travel to the country).

I'll add fortunately we don't have a World Government with a "Full Faith and Credit" clause. So, judgements in the UK are rarely enforced within the US and vice versa.

(mmm, I seem to Like Capit[a|o]l Letters Today)

Re:Not sure I get this one. (2, Funny)

misterpies (632880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898587)

No, the UK court can't put him in prison because libel is a civil and not a criminal matter.

As for damages, you'd be surprised what reciprocal enforcement proceedings can do. I'm not sure of the US-UK position for libel but it's quite common, where a judgment is obtained against a foreign person, to go off to the foreign courts and ask them to enforce that judgment. It depends what treaties are in force. Plus of course if the person you're suing has any assets in the UK - or in any other country where there are reciprocal enforcement arrangements - then you can enforce the judgment against them.

As for UK citizens libelling US citizens, skylarov is irrelevant because that was a criminal matter and as I said, libel is civil. Sure they could be sued in the US, but enforcement would again be subject to whatever reciprocal enforcement agreements were in force. You can't extradite someone for libel, or arrest them/prevent them leaving the country if they happen to be in the US.

Sigh... I wonder if there's a website where lawyers can spend their time making ill-informed comments about tech issues.

Re:Not sure I get this one. (4, Interesting)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898596)

> Make him pay a fine? His money's not in the UK. They'd have to get these things from the US, and the US would refuse.

Isn't it interesting how they indeed refuse such things, yet demand from other countries that they extradite their citizens to the USA so the USA can apply its own law abroad? In a specific case they went to the point of taking military action even (tho the guy in question no doubt deserved it)

If people wonder why outsiders consider the USA bad and hypocrit, think about those things again maybe.

Re:Not sure I get this one. (1)

triskaidekaphile (252815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898603)

True, although said offending U.S. citizen would have to be careful not to travel to U.K. jurisdiction for the rest of his or her life. Like how the DeBeers execs do not dare step on U.S. soil because of their racketeering convictions.

This is about a corporation, not an individual. This is particularly unnerving for multi-national corporations who do have a presence in multiple countries. Just ask Yahoo about French senstivities! What one branch of a corporation does in one country could have serious consequences in another national jurisdiction. This is most pertinent to journalism since the reporting of opinions and facts are certain to offend someone somewhere.

On the up side, this may help clean up some of the dirty and sloppy reporting behaviors we have seen lately. On the down side, it may result in corporations enforcing censorship far stricter than the law would -- even could -- allow. That's how to subvert freedom of the press: fear.

Re:Not sure I get this one. (1)

nmos (25822) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898641)

Libel is a CIVIL matter in the US so there is no danger of anyone getting dragged off to court in the US to stand trial for it.

Re:Not sure I get this one. (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898659)

There is a current case going on about three UK bankers who US prosecutors are trying to take to court in the US over possible fraud charges - 'illegally gaining money via international banking systems'. The 'offences' were committed in the UK, and consist of 'making $7m after allegedly defrauding former employer Greenwich NatWest, the capital markets division of NatWest, by secretly investing in an "off-balance sheet" Enron partnership'.

The British Financial Services Authority, Natwest, and the British Serious Fraud Office have chosen not to take any action against the bankers because no crime occured according to UK law. All of the witnesses, evidence and materials to do with the case reside in the UK, the alledged fraud was committed against a British bank, by British citizens, in Britain. The alledged fraud was not against Enron, and did not contribute to the downfall of the company in any way.

The US are seeking to extridite the bankers under legislation passed in 2004 to specifically help speed up extradition of terrorist suspects. Nice eh?

Re:Not sure I get this one. (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898427)

rather that if you allow the lawsuit to proceed that you could hold anyone responsible for what they post on the Internet anywhere in the world.

Why would this be limited to the Internet? I am sure that the paper version of the Washington Post is available for purchase at some place in Ontario. Lots of international newspapers are. If this stands, then the paper version of any newspaper should be suable in just about any country on the planet.

Re:Not sure I get this one. (1)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898446)

I'm thinking Washington Post has a "business presence" in Canada. Otherwise you can't sue anyone in the entire world. (At least not for this, there are some things over which you can do that)

Re:Not sure I get this one. (3, Insightful)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898471)

Nor me, and based on the content of the linked articles I'd have to side with Cheickh Bangoura on this one. This case isn't about free speech at all, it's about taking responsibility for what you have said or written while using your right to free speech, which is an entirely different kettle of fish. The papers printed something that was found to be untrue by a UN investigation and would undeniably damage someone's reputation whether it was true or not. If the media companies concerned can't prove that they are in the right and the UN's investigation drew the wrong conclusion then they should be liable for damages.

Still, if the ruling is overturned, Cheickh Bangoura is of course free to make any unfounded allegations about the companies concerned and any of their employees that he sees fit. After all, he'd only be exercising his right to free speech, right?

Re:Not sure I get this one. (1)

hhawk (26580) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898473)

This doesn't really seem about free speech. Truth is the perfect defense against Libel.

What it is at issure, perhaps, the possible future threat of some BAD Laws with very low standards. The legal equal of a "speed trap" in some backwoods town that only "out of staters" get caught in...

Re:Not sure I get this one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898545)

I live in Ontario. You can buy the Washington Post in many stores here.

Should it matter with respect to jusrisdiction whether a story was on published on their website or on their paper? You can access either one here quite readily. Selling into this market means they are present and actively doing business in this marketplace. And therefore liable to the rules of this marketplace.

So if Washington Post is doing publishing business here, and if someone here has been libelled by Washington Post, why shouldn't they be called in for it? Just because they are nominally American?

Well I would submit that a corporation (even one with "Washington" in its name) that does business outside the USA is more "global" and not strictly American.

If local courts don't go after global companies just because they have offices elsewhere (like all of the companies who have their headquarters in some place like Bermuda), then they will either be able to place themselves above the law, or we will have to deal with them via "international" law.

Unfortunately, international law is toothless, largely due to the US not recognizing it. So instead, this is where we have to go from here.

It is reasonable that if a company wants to do business in a local jusrisdiction, it should be bound by local law. Either that, or it should get out of the local market.

I would seriously hate to see global corporations able to place themselves any farther above the law than they already have.

Slashdot /.'d!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898304)

Slashdot was not working half an hour ago...Was it slashdotted? Haha! Thats way too funny. Can anyone confirm this is what happened?

The_Fire_Horse takes down slashdot! (0, Offtopic)

The_Fire_Horse (552422) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898337)

10th March 2005 11:50am
Washington, USA - just for shits and giggles, a major US website was taken off the air by an extremely annoying user 'The_Fire_Horse [slashdot.org] '

Slashdot [slashdot.org] is a major tech focused website focusing on gay rights and filthy GNU hippy software. It was a single post from the mentally unbalance user which caused CmdrTacos outrageously patchy perl code to go into an infinite loop taking down all the slashdot servers and the GNU/Coffee Machine.

Taco immediately contacted his supplier, SCO Unix and they had the problem fixed in no time(they uninstalled Linux, installed Windows ME and charged taco another $699 fee per machine).

The offending post was actually a backdoor command using by the recently sacked Micheal who used to reboot slashdot when people made fun of him:

"RUN:COMMAND:INFINITE_LOOP"

Nerds in basements all around the world went without any information source for several hours, but the offending backdoor command is said to have now been closed.

Re:Slashdot /.'d!!! (0, Offtopic)

madaxe42 (690151) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898338)

Server restart. Look at the uptime sidebar.

Media Lies Protection Appeal (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898305)

What's with the "quotes" around "damaged"? The Post lied about this poor guy, and damaged his reputation: in Toronto and everywhere else people could read it. The Washington Post has a responsibility to check their facts before publishing them. Why are they not accountable for their lies? What about all their other lies? When they damage your reputation in a place, they should pay the price there. These other global media giants are getting behind the appeal because they don't want to be accountable for their lies. Freedom of the press doesn't include freedom to lie, just like freedom to swing my arms doesn't include freedom to punch you in the nose. The damage occurs at your nose, not at my fist.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

aug24 (38229) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898371)

One could argue that the data was visible in Canada only because someone requested that a copy of it was made and sent there and the Washington Post (web server) did so. The judge may be taking a fairly extreme view of 'publishing'.

So what would have happened if the Washington Post wasn't also incorporated in Canada? Well, that's the deal: if you want the privileges of incorporation then you must take the hit of liability. Effectively the rule says that any arm of a corporation must take responsibility for all of its arms actions that can have a local effect.

Yeah, on the whole I think you are right.

Justin.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (5, Interesting)

Aim Here (765712) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898381)

The problem isn't with the Post being found to have libelled someone, it's with them being found to be liable in Canada for something they said in Washington DC. The right course of action for this libel victim is to have sued them where the infringing actions took place, which is where the website is, and which is in the US.

If this sort of thing is allowed to continue, how long before I can be convicted under some foreign dictatorship's censorship laws for something I said a thousand miles away?

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898468)

Would of agreed with this, but the Post was doing business in the area where sued(granted only 1 person). With them doing direct business in the area they should fall under the local laws, IANAL.
Other wise I would consider it the same as if an airplane passigenr purchase the post in DC and then flew to canada. The paper did not have direct business in canada.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

fLiXUs (781299) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898500)

> If this sort of thing is allowed to continue, how long before I can be convicted under some foreign dictatorship's censorship laws for something I said a thousand miles away? How about asking: How long since russian citizen Sklyarov was arrested when visiting US for breaking US law (DMCA) while in Russia. Now, this is not quite the same thing, but it surely has its place in the discussion about one nations laws being applied to actions committed in another nation. Google for Sklyarov or start reading the Free Sklyarov webpage [freesklyarov.org]

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (4, Insightful)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898397)

The post didn't malliciously lie about this guy. They didn't decide to go after this man by destroyin his reputation(like the McCarthy trials). There was, at the time, some proof that he was involved in illegal activities and the post reported on it. By your exact logic, President Bush could sue almost every media outlet in the world(especially those that post online) because of those false documents about his military record or OJ simpson suing every news outlet that called him a murderer.

People shouldn't have their hands tied from reporting based on the facts available. Its why we call them reporters and not detectives. I hope this gets struck down simply because if we want to have a society where we are kept up to date we have to allow for these people to report based on bad information once in a while. As long as it wasn't meant to crush the man's reputation out of spite, its fair game(ie. they had a good reason to believe at the time of reporting that this is true).

Now I will say it would be the responsibility of the Post to probably directly link to that article another article about how he was found not guilty of the crime. But I won't say they need to actually be 100% certain every time they report something that every fact is accurate.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (3, Insightful)

Kombat (93720) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898497)

People shouldn't have their hands tied from reporting based on the facts available.

(Ob. Simpson quote): "Facts, schmacks! Facts can be used to prove anything even remotely true."

I hope you see the absurdity in your statement. Of course "reports" should be held accountable for what they report. Yes, by all means, they should only report the facts, or clearly note when they are editorializing. Haven't you ever noticed that news outlets are incredibly diligent about always referring to someone as the "alleged driver of the car," or "the individual suspected of ordering the shooting?"

And for the record, OJ actually does threaten legal action when media outlets publish/broadcast stories referring to him as a "murderer." That's why none of them do it. They always say he was "accused" of murdering his wife, or found "civilly responsible" in civil court. But they never call him a "murderer" outright. They know he could/would sue them.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898713)

you are missing the point of the case. he is suing, not because they reported him as a liar and thief after he was exonerated, but because they reported about it before he was taken to trial.

that is what the post did, report on the facts available at that time.

what you are saying is that if anything is proven even remotely false in the future I should be held against it now. I guess you want our reporters to see into the future? To know the exact outcome of everything they are reporting on as it is happening?
OJ simpson cannot sue people because his reputation was harmed over the murder trial. He was referred to as a murderer by many people. One cannot call him a murderer now, but before the trial people were making claims left and right(both guilty and not guilty).

just so you can read some of the injurous comments:

Section: A SECTION

Word Count: 680

The United Nations has removed a controversial African official from his post at the U.N. Drug Control Program and will not renew his contract because of "misconduct and mismanagement," a U.N. spokesman said yesterday.

The move came after a story in The Washington Post on Sunday detailed a series of allegations against the official, Cheickh Mohamed Tidyane Bangoura, who was the subject of several U.N. investigations. Government officials in Africa, creditors and U.N. sources

CLOUD OF SCANDAL FOLLOWS U.N. DRUG CONTROL OFFICIAL

BOUTROS-GHALI TIES ALLEGEDLY GAVE PROTECTION

Article 2 of 2 found

William Branigin

James Rupert Washington Post Staff Writers

Janaury 5, 1997; Page A1

Section: A SECTION

Word Count: 2342

For much of his four-year career with the U.N. Drug Control Program, Cheickh Mohamed Tidyane Bangoura has been dogged by scandal.

Colleagues have accused him of sexual harassment, financial improprieties and nepotism. The government of Ivory Coast, where he formerly was stationed, said it received so many complaints about his alleged misdeeds that it demanded his removal.

in my view, none of this is calling him a thief, only pointing out that he has been constantly accused of these things. Now of that is untrue, I do not know. The ex ante truth of these statements isn't what was being claimed but rather, the ex post truth value.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898552)

A libellous story in a newspaper can do a lot of damage to a person. Possibly even more than a guilty judgement in a court of law. You shouldn't go around making allegations about people and presenting them as facts without being totally sure that they are facts. Why should the media be able to try and convict someone based on hearsay? They have a responsibility to be sure they report the truth.

If OJ Simpson had been tried in England, he would have been able to sue any newspaper that said he was a murderer. If they said he was an alleged murderer, or an accused murderer, then they would have been okay. The facts are there. In fact, adding the qualifiers makes it more honest.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898732)

I responded to this type of comment a moment ago, read some of the quotes from the article. The washington post only said why he was dismissed and quoted a UN official who said that it was for misconduct. Nor did they say he did any of this, but rather highlighted that he had been constantly accused of misconduct.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

Ripley29 (644468) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898710)

OK, I'll say it: This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

You're saying that the media should not be responsible if they post something that is not true? Do you understand how ridiculous that is?

I think you'd have a very different opinion if you were in this guy's shoes. Picture it: You get arrested for suspicion of pedophilia. It's not true, but the facts in the case sure make it look like you did it. The media jumps all over it because it will make for a juicy story on the 6 o'clock news.. By that night, your picture and name has been plastered all over every TV and newspaper in the area. Months later, it's found in a court of law that you're not guilty.

..So in this case, everyone's happy, right? You're found not guilty, the media sold a lot of newspapers because of the front page story about you and made a ton of $$. Oh, except for the fact that your reputation has been damaged beyond repair for years to come. But it's alright.. The media shouldn't be expected to be detectives, should they?

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898453)

What's with the "quotes" around "damaged"? The Post lied about this poor guy, and damaged his reputation: in Toronto and everywhere else people could read it.

Perhaps because Bangoura did not even move to Canada until after the stories were published, and did not take up residence in Ontario until 2000 (the stories were printed in 1997). He himself chose the place to be "damaged." It would be like someone from Canada flaming me with a racial slur here on Slashdot, and me moving up there to sue him for hate crimes.

So he's basically suing a company that does not have a physical presence in either his old home (Ghana) or his new home (Ontario), apparently because it's the most likely place to render a favorable verdict.

If people can sue just because something appears on the net somewhere, you'll see lawyers deliberately pulling up crap in Google cache from some place that has sympathetic judges and a reputation for big cash awards.

This isn't a question about it being a lie. (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898527)

This is a question about the limits of local laws have over content available from sources outside of their domain.

Yes the post maligned this guy. They may have even lied about it. It does look like they reported what they had without researching it completely. This type of stuff happens all the time.

The key issue here is that this guy is sueing in Ontario, where he did not live at the time the article was created. Worse he is sueing because the article is still available through archives.

Bad reporting should be identified but it should never be removed from the public's access. The slippery slope is that if you start to curtail the availability to erroneous documents because they damage someone how long before truthful stuff gets edited or restricted in distribution?

The only way to prevent offense to people in this persons situation would be to expunge the story from all sources accessible from the net. That is not a solution that I even believe is possible.

Re:Media Lies Protection Appeal (1)

BlueHands (142945) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898667)

The issue isn't damage but scope of law. I hate to use it but it is the clearest example: Germany and their stance on their dark chapter of history. Here I have the freedom to be an ass and say the Hitler had the right idea, there I do not. Should they control my speech simply because I have incorporated there? Do I have to print everything in both English and French because France wants me to do that? Not all laws are created equal. When all laws are upheld the most restrictive law wins.

The only (3, Interesting)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898306)

protection against libel is the truth.

Was the media telling the truth about this guy's character or action or whatever?

Re:The only (3, Informative)

QMO (836285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898364)

According to the article, the Post published allegations about sexual harassment that got the guy fired. These allegations were later found to be baseless, but the Post has never printed a retraction or made any attempt to make ammends.

Is this article (in Globeandmail) more trustworthy than the ones (in the Washington Post) that got the dude fired? I don't know, but that's what I get from it.

Re:The only (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898459)

well the Globe & Mail is one of the organizations that is appealing the ruling, so you wouldn't expect them to be 100% impartial.

I'd like to read the original Washington Post article to see for myself how the "accusations" are worded.

Re:The only (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898516)

To me, how they were worded isn't the issue here. However they were worded, they apparently got him fired, and no one seems to be denying that.

Man... (3, Insightful)

DoubleDangerClub (855480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898308)

I think this is ridiculous. I just can't see how they can try and use internet access as an excuse to make more money out of a court case.

If this were the case, Paris Hilton could sue for every province that her video was accessible from the internet. In fact, all celebrities could sue someone on these same grounds.br>

Re:Man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898526)

Yeah, and so could Fred Durst... Ummm... wait a minute...

Re:Man... (1)

Ubergrendle (531719) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898606)

If this were the case, Paris Hilton could sue for every province that her video was accessible from the internet. In fact, all celebrities could sue someone on these same grounds

You're not familiar with Fred Durst's latest attempts to sue websites for $70 million, are you?

Re:Man... (1)

misterpies (632880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898657)


Hello? The suit is for libel. The whole point about libel is that the libel MUST BE UNTRUE. A video can only be a libel if what it depicted didn't happen i.e. it's fictional or misleadingly edited. Now if you showed the Paris video and claimed that in fact the video used a body double because PH is in fact a man, then you'd have a libel.

"The story?" (2, Interesting)

ites (600337) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898312)

From the legal documents it looks like the plaintiff sued for libel, and the motion was suspended, but the plaintiff was granted the right to recover costs of around $7,500 (Canadian, one supposes).

Not at all clear how this affects free speach one way or another.

Re:"The story?" (2, Insightful)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898331)

The problem is, it starts at $7,500.00 and continues to get worse. Eventually, no one says anything about anyone or anything for fear of getting hit for millions in damages.

Re:"The story?" (1)

freshman_a (136603) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898745)

easy solution - instead of throwing around wild accusations, make sure what you are saying about someone can be backed up with proof/facts. why shouldn't people be allowed to sue someone for libel or slander?

Server down eh? (1)

Hosting Geek (851934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898315)

<offtopic>
Its seems all of OSTG was down for 30min
</offtopic>

welcome to the revolution..... (1)

dhbiker (863466) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898317)

... the internet is an anarchy - this is inherant in the design it is totally unreasonable to expect companies to police what someone else posts on a very large website, its simply not cost effective.

Re:welcome to the revolution..... (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898462)

Which article are you reading?

The one that you replied to was about:
A company payed an employee to post information that cost someone their job. This information was found to be baseless (this means that there was no reason to believe it). The company that paid to publish the "false" information made no attempt at correction or retraction, even after repeated requests.

And, part of the job of Washington Post editors is to be aware of every word that gets published. Cost effective or not, that's what they're paid for.

Re:welcome to the revolution..... (1)

dhbiker (863466) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898525)

boy do I feel like a dumbass now! That's what comes from reading the article waay too quickly and in small snippets (I work in an open plan office ;-) ). My bad

A different take (3, Insightful)

mchawi (468120) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898346)

One of the things that I wonder about, not being a lawyer, is how this would actually impact the individual. Let us say that you live in Europe and the Washington Post issued a story on their website (viewed in Europe) that was incorrect, and you wanted to sue for libel. Should you then have to file in the United States - and have to pay charges to go there, legal fees in the US, etc?

I'm not saying one is better than another, because I can see some benefits to the 'consumer' in both instances. I'm just curious what the law is now, for a newspaper. If the newspaper was sent to Europe and someone sued for libel - do they have to file in the US?

I guess my concern would be that internet companies based in countries with different laws or other sort of barriers to suing for libel would make it so that they could print anything - or is that already the case?

I'm just not sure how companies standing up to defend themselves against being sued in a foreign country for publishing rumors and innuendo is a 'free speech' issue. It sounds like they just want to make anyone suing them have to do so in the country where they are hosted.

Re:A different take (1)

aug24 (38229) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898406)

Mo, that's the point. This chap didn't have to sue the Washington Post in Washington, he sued the part of the company that is incorporated in Ontario, for the actions of the part in Washington.

After I've thought about it for a while, I think his actions were quite correct.

Justin.

Re:A different take (1)

robindmorris (682328) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898428)

If the company concerned has a presence in the country where the damage occured, they should be sued in that country.

In this case, that means that the Canadian office of the Washington Post should be sued. And quite rightly if they published something false.

What if (3, Insightful)

wiredog (43288) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898430)

They publish an uncomfortable truth, and it's read online in a country where that particular truth is illegal to express?

Re:What if (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898645)

That's exactly the train of thought that the media companies are trying to raise as part of their defense. However there is a big difference between saying something that is an uncomfortable truth and something that is complete fabrication, which is very likely the case here. The papers are entirely free to do both - that's what the right to free speech gives them - but what they are trying to do here is absolve themselves of any responsibilty for getting it wrong.

What they are afraid of is this case setting a precedent that would enable someone to sue for damages over an "uncomfortable truth". Suppose they truthfully claimed that a dictator was guilty of human rights atrocities in their US edition paper/website; they feel this ruling would enable that dictator to sue for damages in his own courts. Frankly, I think they are reaching an awfully long way with this - this kind of situation seems to happen every time Robert Mugabe gets a mention in the western media, and the lawsuits are hardly flying, are they? True, there are all sorts of reporting restrictions in place within Zimbabwe, but the media doesn't seem particulary worried about letting the uncomfortable truths fly every time they write a story does it?

Anyone who thinks this is great (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898349)

because it's an American company being sued by a former UN official, just remember who has the largest arsenal of lawyers in the world.

If this decision is upheld on appeal, watch conservative groups target "liberal" newspapers when they print bad things about Bush and company.

Re:Anyone who thinks this is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898499)

Only, more likely would be gormless "liberals" suing to fund/forward their fad agenda of the day.

Freedom of speech (1)

gedeco (696368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898368)

"Some of the world's big media outlets (including CBC, CNN, Guardian, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, Reuters, and -- as well as Amazon, AOL, Google and Yahoo) are appealing a Canadian court ruling threatening both free speech and the Net.

Freedom of speech, doesn't implement the freedom of publishing a lie.

Re:Freedom of speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898410)

Terrorists blew up WTC

The government didnt know.

The biggest lies ever told and you're worried about a guys reputation!

CP/M vs. DOS (2, Interesting)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898385)

This can be compared to Tim Paterson suing [slashdot.org] over the "paternity" of MS-DOS. I don't know why no one made any issues about journalistic freedom over that case (even on slashdot).

I am shocked! (1, Insightful)

deacon (40533) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898429)

Really, people should be more careful about criticizing the UN.

UN workers are at the forefront of child care [slashdot.org] in the Congo.

Consider also the swift and effective response of the UN regarding the non-problems [google.com] in Darfur.

I, for one, feel safer because of the UN.

Re:I am shocked! (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898475)

Yeah the UN has an amazing record of stoping genocide world wide. I feel safer already.

Re:I am shocked! (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898582)

Well, you can thank the USA for that. Every time the UN wants to call something genocide and move out, the USA says that its not and stalls until enough people are dead that the point is moot.

Where is the original article? (2, Insightful)

Ulric (531205) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898442)

If a newspaper or anybody else makes baseless accusations of serious crimes against somebody and refuses to retract them, surely that's illegal not only in Canada but anywhere?

It would be much easier to know whom to side with after reading what the newspaper wrote.

Larger implications. (1)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898464)

So, what's going to happen here?

I mean, imagine tha WaPo failed to defend itself. Would the judge be able to forbid the sale of the WaPo in that province? And then forbid the viewing of the WaPo web site in the province?

Are we going to see judges impose PRC-style blocks on national internet access, based on a given country's laws concerning libel?

Libel (2, Insightful)

Vollernurd (232458) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898512)

IIRC, libel is where whatever is being sued-over is untrue. So what's the big deal here? Most newspaper web sites carry stories from their print versions. Just because something is stored on a web server does not mean that it can be a lie. Or have I misunderstood?

Re:Libel (1)

markdowling (448297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898682)

The Post published on the web information that got him fired. He wants payback. Wouldn't you?

The best part was ... (2, Funny)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898528)

the lawyer named Roach. That's priceless.

Slightly Misleading (1)

barryfandango (627554) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898529)

Note that there is no "Ruling" as suggested by the article here. The only decision that has been made is that the man's case can be heard in an Ontario court. Hold those knees back for now, folks.

Nonsense! (1)

coder.keitaro (861991) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898539)

This is nonsense.

Firstly, he is suing 8 years after the fact.
Why did he not sue the paper at the time he got fired by the UN.
Why did he wait for 8 years, move to another country, and then sue?

Secondly, if having access to an archive, in this case on-line, makes the publisher liable for libel lawsuits, then what is to stop people moving to other jurisdictions and suing a publisher over and over again, just because the archive tarnishes their reputation in their hew home town.

I agree that what the paper did was wrong, it initially cost the guy his job, but that was 8 years ago!

This does not really affect free speech directly.
You should be able to sue anyone for libel if you can prove being adversly affected by the lies made.

But it does affect freedom of information.
This will mean that anyone maintaining a publicly accessible archive of old articles will be liable for any lies said in those articles, even if they are later repudiated.

The judge needs to exert that Canadian common sense and realise that if a person looks in an archive and finds some information they should have the sense to check it's validity.
[Should I sue ietf [ietf.org] for maintaining obsolescent RFC's?]

This decision is likely to make organisations, especially news organisation and caching services [like google et. al.], less likely to open up their archives.

Which is a bad thing(TM).

William Branigin (1)

Storlek (860226) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898604)


B E T W E E N :
CHEICKH BANGOURA
Plaintiff
- and -
THE WASHINGTON POST, WILLIAM BRANIGIN, JAMES RUPERT, STEVEN BUCKLEY, UNITED NATIONS and FRED ECKHARD
Defendants

Leela: Hey look, that's William Branigin's court case.
Fry: Wow, the William Branigin?
Leela: Uh-huh.
Fry: Who's the William Branigin?

Sue sue sue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898623)

I think the Bush family should sue CBS! Hi oh!

Seriously, run an article saying "oops, our bad, sorry man" on the front page. There, problem solved.

They SHOULD have had to pay. (1)

markdowling (448297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898646)

"The UN fired Mr. Bangoura in 1997 after two articles in The Washington Post accused him of sexual harassment and financial improprieties. A UN tribunal later found the allegations baseless and said he should be compensated and reinstated."

Canadian law means the Post has to justify why publishing information which was insufficiently investigated and found to be untrue but caused the guy to be fired is not cause to pay damages. It's hilarious that all manner of stupid stuff can be sued for in US courts but slander and defamation are almost impossible to pursue.

They can restrict their site to US IPs if they don't want to be sued elsewhere. As the ruling noted, no-one made the Post create an internet site, it was a marketing decision. There are consequences, and now the Post realises that.

Re:They SHOULD have had to pay. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11898733)

I'm amazed you're one of the few defending this decision. Amazed but on your side. Defamation and libel has never been considered a free speech issue. Not even in the US. They just hate the UN and anything to do with it and therefore are willing to overlook what would be a cause of action in their own country.

I'd like to apologize.. (1)

BallyHigh (812016) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898647)

Out of anger, I once referred to a fellow poster as a 'buttlord' on a showbiz-related web forum.

If this prevents him from ever finding work again in straight porn, can I be sued?

Moral of the story (1)

goatan (673464) | more than 9 years ago | (#11898720)

The UN fired Mr. Bangoura in 1997 after two articles in The Washington Post accused him of sexual harassment and financial improprieties. A UN tribunal later found the allegations baseless and said he should be compensated and reinstated.

Mr. Bangoura, a Canadian citizen, sued the Post for libel and argued that because the newspaper posted the story on its website, his reputation had been damaged in Ontario.

The newspaper moved to have the case dismissed and argued that if it were allowed to proceed in Ontario, any news organization could be sued anywhere over material posted on its website.

Moral of the story do some proper journalism check your facts don't lie and don't moan at others for your mistakes.

Freedom of speech is not a right to lie.

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