This case, involving anonymous comments posted to a blog, could have been an intermediary liability case, but was decided on other grounds. Aspects of the court’s discussion, however, are relevant for intermediaries.
Tamiz sued Google because of allegedly defamatory comments posted to a blog on the company’s Blogger service. The UK courts agreed that three of the comments were potentially defamatory, but held that prior to being notified of their presence, Google acted neither as a publisher nor as a secondary publisher/distributor under defamation law. After receiving notice, the UK court concluded, Google could potentially be deemed to have associated itself with the statements. However, a factual question remained whether time that elapsed between notice and was were sufficient for this inference to arise. In any case, the UK court found that the damage from the posted comments was sufficiently trivial that the cost of further adjudication would be out of proportion to what would be achieved.
The ECtHR agreed with national courts, and rejected plaintiff’s claim that the UK disposition violated his right to private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In discussing the blog at issue, it noted “the Court is inclined to agree with the national courts that while the majority of comments about which the applicant complains were undoubtedly offensive, for the large part they were little more than “vulgar abuse” of a kind – albeit belonging to a low register of style – which is common in communication on many Internet portals.” Those comments which “made more specific – and potentially injurious – allegations would, in the context in which they were written, likely be understood by readers as conjecture which should not be taken seriously.” Moreover, plaintiff had alternate avenues to vindicate his rights, including suing the comments’ authors (after seeking disclosure of their identities from Google) or the blog’s author.