Google Inc. can’t be sued over defamatory comments posted on a blog service that it hosts, a U.K. court ruled.
Payam Tamiz, a 23-year-old law graduate, sued the company over eight offensive remarks posted in 2011 by others on his “London Muslim” blog, which is published through Cupertino, California-based Google’s Blogger platform.
“It is highly improbable that any significant number of readers will have accessed the comments,” Judge Stephen Richards of the U.K. Court of Appeal said in dismissing the lawsuit today. “Any damage to the appellant’s reputation arising out of continued publication of the comments during the period will have been trivial.”
Today’s ruling was the first time the U.K. appeals court has looked at the issue of Internet service providers’ liability when defamatory material is published using its platform, according to Iain Wilson, Tamiz’s lawyer.
“Mr. Tamiz is disappointed with the outcome of the appeal but happy to have played a role in clarifying the law for the benefit of others who might be defamed in online publications,” Wilson said in an e-mailed statement. Tamiz is considering whether to appeal the ruling to the U.K.’s highest court.
The three-judge-panel disagreed with an earlier ruling from a lower court in which a judge said Google couldn’t be held liable for the comments because it wasn’t the publisher of the blog.
“It is a blow to the technology platform providers because the Court of Appeal decided that Google is arguably responsible for the postings by the blogger once they have been notified of them and have failed to take them down,” said Ian De Freitas, a lawyer at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP who isn’t involved in the dispute.
Google’s services “help users to express themselves and share different points of view,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “Where content is illegal or violates our terms of service we will continue to remove it.”
The case is: Payam Tamiz v. Google Inc & Anr., U.K. Court of Appeal (Civil Division), case no. A2/2012/0691