Following a 1999 libel case, it has generally be understood that service providers such as Google are publishers of the content on their systems, and lose any immunity they have as soon as they are warned the content is defamatory, leading to an extra-judical take-down system.
In this case, where Google was being sued by a UK politician over allegedly defamatory comments on a Blogger post, the Judge held that the hosts were not even publishers and so not liable at all. Going further, Mr Justice Eady commented that even if Google were a publisher, they would not be liable as being notified that the comments may be defamatory was not enough to count as "actual knowledge." Google could not be expected to assess whether or not each statement was defamatory, or defensible.
This ruling marks a welcome, if subtle, change in the law. It should reduce the chilling effect of libel threats on UK-based service providers, as they may no longer be required to remove content or face substantial legal costs themselves."
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