Oil firm secures court orders - The Irish Times - Wed, Nov 28, 2012An Irish oil exploration company has secured court orders aimed at identifying people who allegedly posted defamatory material about it on internet message boards with a view to suing them following a "catastrophic" fall of £132 million in its market value in recent weeks.
It is claimed "wholly untrue" defamatory postings between November 8th and 22nd, including postings claiming the company's drilling project in Nevada, US, was a "scam" by "liars", materially contributed to its share price fall and damaged its company's reputation and ability to raise funds to exploit oil discoveries.
The market capitalisation of US Oil & Gas plc (USOP) on November 5th was £173 million when the share price was £4.15 and is now £41.6m with a share price of £1, the court heard.
The bit that should concern all of us who post online:
Mr Fanning said the material complained of was posted on message boards on three websites - boards.ie operated by Boards.ie Ltd, an Irish company; iii.co.uk, operated by London South East Ltd, a UK company; and lse.co.uk, operated by two related companies, Interactive Investor Trading Ltd and Interactive Investor plc.
All the defendants had taken down the material when complaint was made, had behaved promptly and responsibly and his client had no issue with them but wished to get access to material aimed at identifying those who made the postings, counsel said.
Boards.ie Ltd had said it would provide IP addresses of those who posed the alleged defamatory material if the court ordered it to do so, he said. London South East Ltd had given a similar indication and, while Interactive had raised jursidcitional issues, it was not anticipated there would be a difficulty with that entity, counsel outlined.
I think the thing to take away here is that the websites are singing like canaries (Jaysus, I hope that's not defamatory!) and will/are co-operating in identifying the people who actually posted the defamation.
I'd also be of the opinion that this is a great ruling for online freedom of speech. It means websites themselves, if they act responsibly and in good faith, probably have less to fear than the individual posters who publish a defamation. That should keep more discussion sites open, whilst also protecting individuals and companies from defamation, since it is clearly the responsibility (primarily, at least) of the individual for what they post.
It's also a pretty scary reminder that some random comment can have real consequences in the real world.