Examples of forums being sued for comments made by posters

Does anyone know of any legal cases where companies have (successfully or unsuccessfully) sued forum owners for comments made by registered members of the site?

Is there any general consensus as to forum owner responsibility for comments made by forum users?

Yes. A mothers forum in the UK was sued by the author of a controversial book on the topic after postings by the members. The case was settled out of court with the removal of posts, an undisclosed sum and a ban on further mentions of the author or her work.


We could always try an experiment, but you’ll have to take the next step.

Sandra_nz spends her time fellating goats, and I would like to go on record as saying that.

Not directly on topic, but craiglists in New York was sued for posting real estate listings that had discriminatory content.

You fiend! :mad:

(It’s alpacas, not goats)

Man, I wish I still had all the links. I probably do, somewhere, on a disk from several years ago.

I remember running across a story (maybe even linked from here!) about a forum for Volkswagen enthusiasts where there was a huge firestorm about the lack of service provided by a particular dealer. The customer had been suffering terribly at the hands of this dealership that was supposed to have installed a stereo or something like that, and they just went back and forth. All the while, the customer had been posting about the awful experiences he’d had on the forum. Eventually, somehow, word got back to the dealership, they joined the fray, and then threatened to sue not only the customer, but the forum owners as well.

The dealership apparently figured they had the money to get lawyers and drag it out in court long enough to make it so expensive that the customer and the forum owner would regret exercising their right to free speech – I use this wording because there is a specific term for lawsuits like this – but what eventually happened was that the corporate level got wind of the lawsuit and the terrible PR mess the manager at the dealership had made for the company name, removed the manager from his post, and made things right with the customer without ever going to court.

If I find those links, I will post them here.

I believe this is the thread you are looking for, young Padawan.

Something like this also happened over at the sword forum international. I wasn’t around at the time, but it seems a particular swordsmith’s work was criticized on the forums. These forums consist of collectors, re-enactors, and historical martial artists, and so they have certain standards when it comes to replicas. I’m not sure exactly what the problem was, or what was being said, but the swordsmith sued and I believe the case was settled, though I don’t know what the settlement was. To this day it’s mostly verbotten to mention the particular smith involved - that might be part of the settlement.

I dont know but Im pretty sure that Bill Gates practices bestiality.

Ermmm…wrong thread?!

Thanks for that link above, I’ll check it out.

The reason I ask is that my husband’s forum has recieved a letter from a company threaten to sue, due to comments made on his forum. I was wondering how much this has happened and what the outcomes have tended to be.

Shit, with NZ in your username, I’m pretty sure any small to medium sized quadruped would be fair game. :smiley:

I wasted a lot of time yesterday paging through that very lengthy thread I linked above, so I’ll save you some time and summarize. The OP of that thread posted his negative experiences with a local automobile dealership. The manager of the local dealership found out about the thread (in which other people had joined in to share their own negative experiences) and threatened to sue the OP for slander. OP refused to remove his comments, and the local dealership did in fact pursue litigation against both the OP and the owners of the forum. (Although in a humorous side note, the dealership screwed up and actually sued a similarly-named local business that had absolutely nothing to do with the online site, but this turned out to be a moot point.) After some back and forth and I believe an initial hearing, the president of the automotive company decided to drop the suit and apologize to the OP, and as far as I know, no more came of it.

Ah, cheers!

The stupid thing about my husbands forum is that the person threatening to sue is in fact a member of the board and could simply have reported the post, requesting it be moved (it’s quite a large forum so the moderation team don’t read every thread).

Instead he’s requesting a formal apology, to be approved by him before it’s posted on the forum, yadda yadda yadda…

Note that UK libel law is significantly nastier than the US version. IIRC, you have to prove your statement is true in the UK to defend yourself, while in the US, they have to prove that your statement is false and malicious.

I wasn’t going to comment on this earlier when I read it as I wasn’t registered, but I just registered to answer something else, so here goes:

I used to be a moderator on a UK-based forum for owners of a certain make of car. I was a moderator for nearly 4 years on the site and along with 5 others we saw it grow into the UK’s biggest discussion site for this particular make of car. Neither I, nor any of the other moderators saw a penny of the profit made from advertising on the site. I’m led to believe it was all ploughed back into the hosting fees, although I didn’t care, that wasn’t why I was part of the site.

Anyway, some muppet posted something about an independant garage (no need for details - but it was an allegation deemed worthy of Police attention). Within a week, the administrator of the site had been served with a notice of intent by the garage to sue the original poster, the site admin, and all 5 moderators for libel. Sueing the 5 mods was dependant upon the admin giving the solicitor our home addresses, which he was able, but unwilling to do.

Here’s the thing: because we had the ability to delete the libelous comments, but didn’t, we were also guilty of libel. We sought legal advice and were basically told that settling was a distinct option.

Their solicitor latched on with the tenacity of a bull terrier as he was of those “no win, no fee” types, and their suggested settlement figure was UK£10,000. Even split 6 ways, that’s a fair old chunk, especially when you consider that I was on holiday at the time the libelous post was made.

To his credit, the site admin (as far as I know), never divulged the mods’ details. I have since left the site as we were soon embroiled in a trademark infringement case with the car manufacturer. As I had been warning the admin about using the logo on the site for some time, I decided that it was time to pursue other interests and haven’t been back since.

From what I can gather, the original poster was sued, but I neither know nor care about the outcome. The case against the website was reduced to just the site administrator, with a much lower settlement figure (I believe UK£1200). I don’t know the outcome of that either. The case against me and my 4 other unwitting counterparts was thankfully dropped.

I suppose the whole thing left me a bit wiser, and a bit more cynical. You give up a significant portion of your time to help a website that has the sole intention of helping people, and you end up exposing yourself to abuse, misdirected (and sometimes shocking) anger (all of which is easy to type), and then a law suit.

I won’t be moderating any forums again.

I think the OP is looking for examples of SLAPP lawsuits.



That may indeed be the case, but as the OP and I are both from the UK, I offer her the benefit of my experience, which I believe to be not entirely unrelated to her question.

Thanks Dave,

It’s a very similar situation - a forum user has posted a libelous comment about a company. As soon as the moderation team were made aware of the post, it was removed.

We’re hoping a public apology will be sufficient and no further action will be taken but I was just interested in similar cases.

Your husband’s situatuation sounds exactly like mine. Although, he has the advantage that the post was removed immediately.
The post on our forum was left there for approximately 5 days :smack: while my fellow moderators argued amongst themselves about such things as “free speech” and other cliches. Remember that I was on holiday at the time! :smack:

Our biggest mistake was not deleting it immediately.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him as I know exactly how worrying this stuff can be.