Lawsuits Put Online Free Speech At Risk

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the defamation lawsuits launched in British Columbia by Wayne Crookes against a who's who of the Internet, including Yahoo!, MySpace, and Wikipedia.  Those companies are accused of defaming Crookes not by virtue of anything they have said, but rather by permitting their users to post or link to articles that are allegedly defamatory.

The lawsuits could prove to be critically important to the Internet in Canada, because they cast the net of liability far wider than just the initial posters.  Indeed, the lawsuits seek to hold accountable sites and services that host the articles, feature comments about the articles, include hyperlinks to the articles, fail to actively monitor their content to ensure that allegedly defamatory articles are not reposted after being removed, and even those that implement the domain name registrations of sites that host the articles.

The common link with all of these targets is that none are directly responsible for alleged defamation.  Rather, the Crookes lawsuits maintain that Internet intermediaries should be held equally responsible for such content.
For example, one lawsuit argues that Yahoo! refused to shut down an offending site – a Green Party of Canada chat board – and therefore libeled Crookes.  Similarly, MySpace is targeted both for its failure to shut down a personal page that contained allegedly defamatory content as well as for its refusal to remove a link to, a site that the suit claims hosted defamatory content (Crookes has also sued

The inclusion of Wikipedia in the lawsuit extends the circle of liability even further. According to the statement of claim, an article about Crookes appeared on three occasions in Wikipedia.  In each instance, Crookes asked Wikimedia, the company that maintains the popular online encyclopedia, to remove the article.  In each instance, it complied with the request.

Despite taking down the content, Wikimedia has now been sued for failing to "monitor its website to ensure that the libels of [Crookes] did not reappear on its website." Moreover, the suit also seeks to hold it liable for refusing to remove an article on online journalism that contains a hyperlink to an article about Crookes. 

The broadest extension of liability involves the inclusion of a U.S.-based service called Domains By Proxy in the lawsuit.  The company, which allows individuals to protect their privacy by anonymously register domain names, is being sued for refusing to divulge the identity of the registrant of a website that contained an article about Crookes.  The lawsuit argues that the domain name registration service has "accepted responsibility for the actions of the owner of the website."

While it will fall to a judge to determine whether the articles and postings are indeed defamatory, the inclusion of such a broad range of Internet intermediaries could have a significant chilling effect on free speech in Canada.  If successful, the suits would effectively require websites – including anyone who permits comments on a blog or includes links to other sites – to proactively monitor and remove content that may raise liability concerns.  They will also call into question the ability of domain name registrants to guard their privacy by refusing to publicly-disclose their identities. 

In response, it is likely that many sites will simply drop the ability to post comments since the challenge of monitoring and verifying every comment will be too onerous. Alternatively, many sites may abandon Canada altogether by establishing their online presence in the United States.  Courts in the U.S. have repeatedly denied attempts to hold intermediaries liable for content posted by third parties on the grounds that a 1996 statute provided them with immunity for such postings.  I argue that Canada would do well to introduce a similar provision, since the consequences for defamatory speech should rest with those directly responsible, not mere by-standers with deep pockets. 


  1. Dorkmaster Flek says:

    Does anybody else find it funny that his name is Crookes…? Uh oh, Professor Geist might be getting appended to that lawsuit now… 😛

  2. Mark Francis says:

    The Wider Implications
    First, disclosure: I am being sued by Wayne Crookes. See

    [ link ]

    Libel law in Canada is very restrictive, more so than is found in the rest of the democratic world. You are guilty until proven innocent, honest opinions based upon facts can still be found libellous, and linking to sites which are argued to contain libel _somewhere_ can get you in trouble as well. In Canada, pretty much anything you write about someone else is libellous until a judge says otherwise.

    Placing my position aside, and Wayne Crookes’ as well, if archaic BC libel law (I add that BC isn’t the only province we should be concerned with here) is to be able to shut down blogs, blog comments and forums operated in other jurisdictions, how long will it be before powerful people and corporations realize that they can shut down free speech published in other jurisdictions with a BC court order? Will some US politicians use BC courts shut up their opponents by citing interests they prior established in BC?

    If this is to be so, well then, welcome to the new Global Village, where the restrictive rules of one tiny hut get applied all over town.

  3. Crookes seems to be doing an excellent job of diminishing his own reputation, without anyone\’s assistance.

  4. Neil Sanderson says:

    Hi Michael:

    You write: “While it will fall to a judge to determine whether the articles and postings are indeed defamatory, the inclusion of such a broad range of Internet intermediaries could have a significant chilling effect on free speech in Canada. If successful, the suits would effectively require websites – including anyone who permits comments on a blog or includes links to other sites – to proactively monitor and remove content that may raise liability concerns.”

    Are you suggesting that “free speech” over-rides an individual’s right not to be defamed? I always thought our system was the reverse.

    And then there’s the practical consideration. If a publisher permits defamation by an anonymous commenter, then from whom is the victim of the defamation to seek redress?


  5. Mark Fsancis says:

    Thought I’d jump in.

    A person’s right to reputation does not override another’s right to expression, nor does a person’s right to expression override another’s right to reputation. People also have a right to privacy, which in Canada also always comes into conflict with freedom of expression.

    All of these rights have to be balanced with each other, along with the many needs of a free and democratic society.

    If Internet intermediaries were to be found responsible in this case, then the clear effect would be the curtailment of freedom of expression, based upon the _presumption_ that libel would otherwise be the result. I can’t imagine a workable system, which would be sufficient to guard intermediaries while still allowing our expressions. Not only is it onerous for a provider of Internet services to fact-check everything written, libel can be a terribly complicated affair in Canada, not always evident to a reader, but nevertheless clearly evident to the subject, assuming they are being honest about it (which is a problem in of itself.)

    The classic example is someone writing that a certain person wears a red scarf. Is that libelous? Well, apparently not even if not true, but if a red scarf worn in the person’s neighborhood is proof positive that the subject is a gang member, when they actually don’t wear such a scarf, libel has been done… even if the author had no idea.

    How would an intermediary know that such writing was libelous?

    In a more general sense, it is far too much to ask such intermediaries to be the arbitrators of what is acceptable. Do we want a profit-driven series of corporations to decide what we post and what we don’t? Would they? No, they wouldn’t. If such a liability existed, even if they still allowed us to express ourselves without prior vetting, at the first sign of a complaint, they would take down whatever was written in order to avoid or to minimize their liability. I think it’s clear how easily that can be abused. And please, don’t doubt that it is.

    America, the UK and Europe and many Commonwealth nations have long since moved on in their libel law. We need to as well. Just use common sense here: Is it not more effective to battle defamation online by writing a reply? Compare that to spending several years in court trying to get it corrected. It’s absurd.

    Are we to also hold ordinary people like myself to the same standards held by traditional media? Can’t we have conversations online, exploring issues, and, yes, making mistakes, without being unduly worried about someone flush with cash coming by and pounding to death with archaic law our discussions?

    Though I can understand my private neighbours being disturbed if I started writing about them online, I can’t say the same about Stephen Harper, or Elizabeth May, or any of the people who stand behind them, sometimes largely hidden from view, yet affecting governance and political dialogue in our society. Political speech is very important to the health of a society, and many democratic jurisdictions in our world have come to realize this and have adjusted their libel law to suit.

    Not in Canada. Here, the law used by the aristocrats of yesteryear still prevails.

    I agree that people should not be allowed to perpetuate lies clearly presented as fact, which would otherwise harm a person. However, we are not fools. We know the difference between fact and opinion. As long as the opinion is derived from fact, regardless as to why the person is writing it, as long as they subject is public, then so be it. Anything else leads us down the road to where free speech exists only in the hands of oligarchies and rich or connected individuals.

    As for anonymous commenters, c’mon! They’re anonymous! Since when do unverified statements from anonymous cowards have any weight on the Internet?

    That being said, unless Canadian libel law shapes up, free speech on the net will be moving offshore, spoken and hosted anonymously.

    How is that going to be good for anyone?

  6. David Weekly says:

    CEO of PBwiki
    I don’t think there’s a realistic option for companies to actively monitor the content that they host. My company of six people publishes over two million unique pages of user-provided information. A rather simpler solution for ISPs, if this trial goes the wrong way, would be to simply firewall Canada to prevent Canadians from accessing websites with consumer media. That’s the only option our company could afford to undertake. (We’re also being sued by Crookes.) It’d be like the Great Firewall of China, but in reverse.

  7. A typical ciizen says:

    innocent until proven guilty
    There are a lot of misimpressions about these cases. The worst of which come from some US or UK commentators who simply don\’t understand that political statements of opinion are the basis for the suits. Other misimpressions come from those who are under the very mistaken impression that ISPs bear no liability worldwide for content that breaks criminal, not civil law. In most countries, an ISP is required to hand over information under a court order. A journalist or presumably any service following a roughly journalistic methodology, may claim some latitude to refuse such orders, by way of protecting anonymous sources or civil rights.
    But journalists can and do go to jail to protect their sources and journalistic reputations.
    Some of the services in these cases actively invited comment and debate on political and legal matters so it\’s quite difficult, maybe impossible, to argue they had no responsibility for the fact that actual political opinions appeared, or controversial source matter cited.

    1. This is definitely political. There\’s no criticism of Crookes\’ company West Coast Title Search in any of the articles he objects to. It\’s casually mentioned only in a few places, and with no comment about it whatsoever. It may have been included to prove that Crookes was not engaged in some obviously conflicted business like arms, logging, or oil drilling, and to head off (rather than propagate) accusations that he splits votes for personal gain.
    Given he\’s in a restricted legal field, it seems he could not obviously or directly gain a lot from electing a specific government. Though he might gain a lot from figuring out how to sue the Internet: in addition to title searches, his company serves defendants\’ papers.

    2. There are seemingly no disputed statements of fact. This is not \’libel\’ in the US sense of that term. The suits cite statements of political opinion (including nicknames) based on undisputed facts, or only slightly disputed facts. No US political figure could conceivably sue over such. It which would attract massive countersuits in the USA and even specific judicial sanctions (in California). Yet, winning a suit or even a court order in BC could force a US company to hand over information that it is specifically forbidden from in the US
    [ link ]
    Most US and international commentators seem to have no idea what \’BC libel\’ is and would be quite angry and concerned if they believed, correctly, that opinion statements in political matters based on verifiable undisputed facts could be used to file libel suits against them from Canada. Every single critic of Bush, for instance, could face BC SLAPPs and their IPs
    and other identifying information could be handed over the Republicans that they \’libelled\’.

    The Canadian use of the term \’libel\’ is now so unreformed and primitive it belongs in quotes
    [ link ]

    3. Wikipedia is evidently unconcerned as the first and presumably most opinionated version of the article remains visible at
    [ link ]
    So you should read it before you comment on the case or whether you find this worth suing over. It seems to have been targetted for linking (and accepting as true)
    coverage. There is no sign that Wayne Crookes has ever denied any facts from that article.

    4. In \”The blossoming of the Green party\”, an article by Kate Jaimet, in the Ottawa Citizen; Ottawa, Ont.; May 13, 2006 pg. B.4, much more damning things about Mr. Crookes are stated than that he had an incompetent gang of cronies around him. He\’s specifically said by major figures in the party to have \”bought\” the party which \”sold out\” to him. This is much worse language than simply claiming that some bad decisions were made, it implies he controlled a political party for purposes that had nothing to do with its policies. Also, prior to the appearance of the first article in, there were resignations by Elio Di Iorio and Hayley Easto in June 2005 that specifically warned of \”quite possibly illegal\” and very definitely wasteful and irresponsible and unaccountable, activities within the Green Party. These resignation letters were literally the only reliable coverage of matters within the party since it was not being investigated actively by the press in Canada at that time.

    5. If Wayne Crookes succeeds in using a thin BC civil lawsuit to force US service providers and Proxy ISPs to reveal identifying information of posters and of subscribers, then nothing stops oppressive regimes from doing exactly the same thing. Any dissident in the world could easily be targeted. If politics on the net migrates to anonymizing technologies then they will improve and be more useful to terrorists and many other nefarious users. The danger is so extreme that an Israeli court has recently tried to strike a balance
    [ link ]
    so that \” to establish a motion to order an ISP to disclose the identity of a user… the plaintiff is required to prove an \”extra element\” (besides a civil cause of action for libel) to support the motion for disclosure of identity. Such extra element can be influenced by the nature of the statement (i.e. more tendency to expose a user who hurt a private person rather than a political figure), good winning chances for the plaintiff, public interest in matters pertaining to the plaintiff and the pubilcation of the statements, the circumstances of the publication, the scope of damage caused to the plaintiff as a result of the defamatory statement, etc.

    There are dozens of cases of people being tortured and imprisoned and harassed all over the world as a direct result of ISPs and other service providers being able to disclose identity information on thin excuses. In some countries, like the UK, it requires a court order. In Israel likewise – it\’s clear from this decision in Haifa they won\’t grant it automatically, and are particularly reluctant to grant it if the person criticized is in politics.

  8. a typical citizen says:

    still innocent until proven guilty
    6. Most companies genuinely concerned with their corporate reputation don’t try to hide all comment about them or their principals, but, as the Australian law firm Holding Redlich has done, set up a corporate social responsibility (CSR) service to help companies adopt practices that meet the demands of regulators, industry bodies and stakeholders, and comply with the array of international principles [including] the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, conventions and recommendations of the International Labor Organisation, the Stockholm and Rio Environment Declarations, the Kyoto Protocol and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
    [ link ]
    [ link ]

    7. Canada and the US have laws and treaties that specifically protect political dissidents in other countries. Including each other’s countries. And even if it’s not about politics,
    remember that the European Court of Human Rights in the “McLibel” case held that the UK law that silenced activists complaining about McDonalds offended modern human rights principles.
    Canada supports similar principles, and none of the previous Supreme Court of Canada rulings on Charter defenses against libel involved statements about political parties or players. This is a very critical difference.

    The consequences of thin Canadian civil lawsuits exposing political commentators to risks worldwide are so grievous that it would be irresponsible for any judge to rule for Crookes.

    8. The timing of the suits is somewhat suspicious, and they are already having a chilling effect, according to Rob Hyndman:
    [ link ]
    who felt forced to delete a comment that is “very well argued, and passionately made, and in a world that made sense would in unedited form clearly be legitimate and necessary political commentary”. Well if you want your world not to make sense you need only back Mr. Crookes.

    9. The farcical example of a Toronto student posting rude comments about a teacher “rubbing herself” which should never have reached the national airwaves proves how counterproductive
    lawsuits and disciplinary measures are to the actual privacy and reputation of any official
    person. The teacher will forever be “that teacher who the kid says was rubbing herself” and
    Wayne Crookes will forever be “that guy who sued the Internet because of the gang of Crookes
    thing”. Civil laws need reform not just to protect the commentator, but some people from themselves who seem to have found remarkably effective ways to destroy their own reputation.

    10. The very low overhead of posting and replying and refactoring but very high overhead of responding to lawsuits creates an inherently abusive situation where anyone with the skills or funds to file a lawuit has a gross advantage over anyone else in the political arena as it exists online. Reverse onus even on political speech is unacceptable in the modern age.

    Russell McOrmand says “those who want to modernize Canadian defamation law aren’t doing so because we believe that Canadian charter and UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights communications rights (freedom of speech) includes the freedom to defame people. We believe that the reverse-onus should be fixed (IE: that those who allege defamation should be the parties to prove their case) to match nearly every other area of law (is defamation really worse than other types of unlawful activity including physical violence? I don’t think so!), and believe that innocent intermediaries should not be able to be dragged into cases simply for offering tools that enable other peoples speech (Most of the people named recently fall into this latter category, and is what has upset most online free activists). Defamation law should have the same type of intermediary liability (AKA: safe harbour) provisions as proposed in Canadian copyright law: notice and notice.” – [ link ]

  9. What of political speech?

    So you do not want to comment on whether the material in question is defamatory; but why did you not at least mention that this allegedly defamatory speech was written in the context of politics, specifically governance of the Green Party of Canada. This is not some private matter between parties; we are talking about how a political party is run, and by whom and for what purpose. Your post makes it sound like we could have been disparaging him with malicious claims of bizarre sexual habits, for all your readers know.

    Did we not learn from Adscam how political parties are governed is of prime interest to the country? Do not political parties now operate with funding direct from the public purse and should thus be required to be governed in a manner which is open and accountable?

    Or are we to be intimidated into silence? The internal power struggles within the GPC would never, NEVER, had reached public ears, or even party ears had it not been for the witnesses who have come forward, and for those who have worked hard to preserve that history in places such as, Wikipedia and USGovernetics, and for those who discuss related matters in the 8000-message+ gpc-members Yahoo group that Crookes admits in his Statement of Claim that he tried to have DELETED during the Green Party of Canada internal elections (!). Or those who worked to bring the internal candidates closer to the party members by running sites such as the Council2006 and FreshStart wikis. Or that intrepid Green Compost Heap blogger Nematode Soylent Green
    (hi!) now of [ link ], whose blog Crookes tried to also delete during the elections.

    The hard work of these people done in the interests of THE PEOPLE have been rewarded with lawsuits, the very process of which threaten many of their livelihoods. These are not rich people. Several are not well off at all. Ongoing costs alone could ruin several of them. These are brave people working in the public interest, and yet our laws do nothing – NOTHING – to protect them from abusive SLAPP suits. Somehow, it is supposed to be reasonable for them to spend the $70,000 that an average civil trial in Canada costs; costs which they will never fully recover even if our perplexing, ancient and oppressive libel laws somehow back them up.

    From ‘The blossoming of the Green party’ by Kate Jaimet in The Ottawa Citizen (May 13, 2006. pg. B.4)

    “In 2004, after a new federal law outlawed corporate donations, the Green Party raised $351,000. It also got half a million dollars in loans, of which nearly $440,000 came from a B.C. businessman named Wayne Crookes. Mr. Crookes was also appointed to a newly- created Green party election readiness committee — an appointment that rubbed many Greens the wrong way. \”It was, is this really a Green, a virtuous way to run a party, by having a rich guy buy his way into a position of power?\” Ms. [Gretchen] Schwarz said. \”A lot of dyed-in-the-wool Greens felt, no.\” She and five other members of the executive council resigned in 2003.”
    There it is. Out in the public domain, considered newsworthy by a major Canadian newspaper. I have not heard of Crookes suing the Ottawa Citizen for printing that.

    Not only do we deserve the protection of the law, but we also deserve to be heard. But doing so is hard given that every word we speak on the subject is scrutinized by well-heeled lawyers abusing aristocratic laws designed to intimidate common folk into submission.

    Even the UK has recognized that political speech deserves protection, in the Reynolds case. In Canada, everyone talks as if the Scientology case is the last word on defamation in Canada; and yet, that case did not deal with political speech. It dealt with a very public and hurtful attack upon a truly non-political figure. We have not have a Sullivan v. New York Times case in Canada wrt political speech, and we badly need to.

    Having a little bit of help from a leading law columnist would be appreciated.

    I really hate having to be anonymous all the time; but unless something is done to fix this tremendous inequity in our backwards law, more and more of us are just going to vanish into the Internet ether, where we will start posting all these materials once again in far off places out of the reach of Canadian jurisdictions.

    And with free political speech slaughtered in Canada, how soon before we will see despots and amoral corporations filing libel suits in British Columbia in order to intimidate free-speaking people all over the world into silence?

  10. Hey, just saw your article on this in the Citizen today. This guy reminds me of Jack Thompson..

  11. Reynolds himself says:

    pet troll of the UK Law Lords
    The Reynolds decision itself says ” In Canada the Supreme Court, in Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto (1995) 126 D.L.R. (4th) 129, rejected a Sullivan style defence, although that case did not concern political discussion. The Supreme Court has not had occasion to consider this issue in relation to political discussion.”

    Obviously the UK courts see fit to make this distinction. Not to make it in this discussion would appear to be simple incompetence.

  12. Not A Google Shareholder says:

    Crookes versus Heroes of 9/11
    Google’s upcoming meeting has a interesting shareholder proposal dealing with free speech and censorship to be voted on at the May 10 meeting. If this passes it would make it very difficult for Crookes as “The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship.” That’s a lot of means, for google. “The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.” Which probably means the state of California which has harsh anti-SLAPP laws and where all opinion (not just political) is protected. A triple-damages countersuit against Crookes for calling them “reckless” and claiming that they “published” the material might even be obligatory. It’s hard to say how this will affect things, but evidently the heroes of 9/11 have decided that free political speech is more likely to prevent another 9/11 and put money in their pockets than cooperating with Crookes and exposing themselves to Alien Tort Claims.

    [ link ]


    The Office of the Comptroller of New York City has advised us that it intends to submit the proposal set forth below for consideration at our annual meeting. It is the custodian and trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System, the New York City Police Pension Fund, and the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and custodian of the New York City Board of Education Retirement System (the “Funds”), which beneficially own 486,617 shares of Google’s Class A common stock. The proposal, along with the Funds’ supporting statement, is included verbatim below. The Funds’ request was submitted by Patrick Doherty, The City of New York Office of the Comptroller, 1 Centre Street, New York, New York, 1007-2341.

    The Funds’ Stockholder Proposal

    Internet Censorship

    Whereas, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental human rights, and free use of the Internet is protected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom to “receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”, and

    Whereas, the rapid provision of full and uncensored information through the Internet has become a major industry in the United States, and one of its major exports, and

    Whereas, political censorship of the Internet degrades the quality of that service and ultimately threatens the integrity and viability of the industry itself, both in the United States and abroad, and

    Whereas, some authoritarian foreign governments such as the Governments of Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam block, restrict, and monitor the information their citizens attempt to obtain, and

    Whereas, technology companies in the United States such as Google, that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian governments have an obligation to comply with the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and

    Whereas, technology companies in the United States have failed to develop adequate standards by which they can conduct business with authoritarian governments while protecting human rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression,

    Therefore, be it resolved, that shareholders request that management institute policies to help protect freedom of access to the Internet which would include the following minimum standards:

    1) Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.

    2) The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.

    3) The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.

    4) Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.

    5) Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.

    6) The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available. ”

    Canada qualifies under clause 1 as political speech is not exempted under criminal libel and defamation laws in that country. So goodbye Google Canada if this passes.

    There’s nothing here to prevent backdoor civil claims coming from say Chinese businessmen to expose dissidents in China to please the government or each other, but the listed standards are “minimum”. The tone of it is pretty clear.

    It’s Crookes versus the NYC 9/11 heroes: disabled fire fighters and police widows. Youch. Get a good public relations guy. Maybe that scrappy lawyer will want to sue all of New York City over this. 😉

  13. dferdman says:

    follow the money?
    Well one side says its political the other side not. If it\’s not political it\’s about money, so why not follow the money? Offered without comment:

    \”This $1.3 million 2005 budget was to cover the costs of a potential 2005 election. However, in May 2005, The party Council abruptly approved the borrowing of another $800 000 or so for the potentially impending election.

    So, I do not know what they spent 2.1 million dollars on in 2005, if they in fact spent it.

    that leaves 1.6 million dollars in 05/06 that is being spent or was spent on, i dont know, stuff.\”

    Elio Di Iorio resigned saying (google cache): \”In the past year, Council has knowingly accepted at least one fraudulent report from its Chief Agent.

    Council was busy perpetuating scandals and embarking on gross misallocations of taxpayer money in its own way.

    Wayne Crookes, the internally anointed \”Campaign Manager\” and \”Acting ERCT Chair\” and whatever else his current title may be must be removed. As the largest financer of the Party, and thus having a significant pecuniary interest in its operation, his involvement as a senior staff member is a clear conflict of interest.

    The Green Party of Canada has received virtually no media attention in the past year. We have committed close to $250 000 to media and have received little or nothing in the way of results. This needs to be examined and discontinued.\”

    This isn\’t very specific but it may explain where the money went. Maybe look into who they bought all that media time from. It just seems so weird that there is so much freaking out over some name calling. There\’s more here.

  14. dferdman says:

    Sorry links don’t seem to work.

    [ link ]
    [ link ]

    There was a CBC report about this at the end of 2005. The CBC was not sued. Maybe look that up too.

  15. dotWORLDS says:

    Why Does Google Publish Libel?
    London, England 5/31/2007 6:24 AM GMT (TransWorldNews) AND as published on Google’s own website

    “At a time when Google proposes to amass ever more sensitive and personal information on Internet users worldwide, Google’s lack of responsibility in actively distributing unsupported libel has given many, real cause for concern. It is the unique status of libel law in America that allows Google immunity from prosecution from anything they publish on And yes, that includes anything they’d like to publish about you” claims Brian Retkin Director dotWORLDS.

    By allowing defamation, libel and character assassination to be posted on their Search Engine by the unverified, the alias and the anonymous, Google undermines and threatens individuals and corporations alike” says Retkin “Alarmingly, Google operates such a policy without fear of accountability, responsibility or compensation for any unjustified degradation suffered by individuals or for the potentially huge costs incurred by businesses supplying bona fida goods and services to the economy”.

    “Google’s complete lack of care in this field is certainly not reflected in their own ambition as they adapt their Search Engine results to accommodate their own sensitivities” says Retkin “In facilitating their growth globally, Google often filters offensive material when catering to new markets with tighter controls. Unfortunately for almost everyone else, or at least those without a few million dollars in the bank to fight back, should Google distribute unsubstantiated and damaging libel about you, there’s little that you can do about it – at least not for a few years as that’s how long they keep their information current”.

    Is this the same Google that’s now begging for even more personal information about you, your family, your lifestyle and any other sensitive data you might care provide? “Well, yes it is” says Retkin “Today, Google needs you. Google needs you for their databases, for their marketing projects and for umpteen other schemes under development. On this subject at least, Google can’t wait to help you out. The questions that arise are whether or not Google can be trusted to use the information responsibly and whether, on past performance, their proposals should even be considered?”

    Why has this been such a worry to so many? “In our case and for some time” say Retkin, our company dotWORLDS has been trying to persuade Google to remove numerous grossly libellous articles published on their Search Engine. Google’s initial response was that they had no responsibility for any content displayed on their websites and that complaints should be directed to the author. However, as these articles were written and posted anonymously (an option available to anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the Internet) there was no way of tracing the culprit(s) even though we were fairly certain it came from one or more of our competitors.”

    dotWORLDS feel that these libellous postings would probably never have been seen but for the Search Engine, as they believe that the attacks on them are all but indistinguishable from so many other unsubstantiated and obscure grudge web pages on the net. “Rather” say dotWORLDS “it is Google’s web-crawl system that allows for just about anything, no matter how inaccurate, spurious, nonsensical or even illegal to be gathered unscreened, recorded, indexed and ranked, later to be disseminated at Google’s inclination to millions Internet users across the world”

    There are rulings that Google can rely on in cases such as dotWORLDS and they are the same rulings that would probably govern the use of your private information should Google get hold of it. For example:

    1) Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (USA), 1996….…This Act specifically states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker.” That legalese means that, unlike print and broadcast companies, online service providers cannot be sued for disseminating defamatory attacks on citizens posted by others.

    2) Excerpt from BBC report from November 2006 entitled “Bloggers and US internet providers cannot be liable for posting defamatory comments written by third parties, the California Supreme Court has ruled” …….Overturning a decision by the San Francisco appeal court, the court ruled that people claiming they were defamed online could now only seek damages from the original author of the comments – and not the website which re-posted it. The court ruled that that Internet Service Providers were protected by US Federal law that said providers of chat rooms or news groups are not considered the publishers of information furnished by others. “The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications,” said Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan.

    Still, it’s not all bad news. Using legal argument, dotWORLDS estimate that they have forced Google to remove over 1500 libellous links from Google’s websites worldwide (eg:, etc) – with the notable exception of Google’s American website Even so, dotWORLDS are convinced that despite the differing libel laws, they’re moving closer to fulfilling even that challenge. More recently dotWORLDS claim they discovered that Google had begun re-publishing libel in the UK, that under threat of court action from dotWORLDS, Google had agreed to withdraw. “We believe that Google have now committed a serious offence under English law” say dotWORLDS

    Search for dotWORLDS on Google’s UK website ( and dotWORLDS claim you won’t find much of the libel remaining. DotWORLDS say it was a very different story not so long ago although much has been achieved since then. What you will find instead are a number of legal notices at the bottom of the search pages to the effect “In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 3 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at”.

    Whilst this is a victory for dotWORLDS, it is by no means a total victory. Make exactly the same dotWORLDS search on Google’s USA website ( and included on the information displayed you will see the libel that Google has deleted on its other websites. Even more disappointing for dotWORLDS is that there is little or no mention of the Google/dotWORLDS dispute “Where is the balance?” says Retkin “We haven’t seen dotWORLDS legal requests to Google, nor any of Google’s deletions notices that have been posted on Google’s other websites. We haven’t even seen the hyperlinks to information on the deletions dotWORLDS forced Google to make. This alone should be of great concern to anyone relying on Google’s information as truth (although why shouldn’t they). In the case of dotWORLDS, not only is Google potentially misinforming their American users but they are also putting them at risk of immediate legal action should they repeat the libel publicly. In a lengthy and expensive hearing, the plea ‘I saw it on Google’ is not a defense. It is only Google that has protection”.

    Whether or not Google wish to remove libellous content on their USA website, having already made a judgement call to delete it in the UK, should the same information on the Google/dotWORLDS dispute be displayed on Google USA. “Yes” say dotWORLDS “by refusing to publish crucial information on their own home ground in the same way, Google’s claim that they are not the arbiter of the Internet becomes spurious. Have Google intentionally censured their own content and if so, what is the reason? Coming directly from Google office, this information on the dispute should be the first thing displayed. However, on Google’s USA, website the information it doesn’t even seem to exist – at least not where it’s supposed to“.

    Google for us was about relevancy, accuracy and quality, say dotWORLDS “but out of approximately 8 billion results currently available, suddenly somehow more than 1 billion are related to Google. Can there really be 1 billion interesting, relevant and/or different things to say about them? Perhaps the quest is now for quantity whatever the cost? Perhaps Google believe that the Search Engine with the most web pages can triumph over all others. Perhaps this has become a race to an indeterminate finish line. If so, perhaps this is the answer to the question: Why does Google publish libel? Perhaps it’s just because Google can“.

  16. Mark Francis says:

    I’m in no position to verify the veracity of dotworld’s claims, but what I do see is that without a court finding a party guilty, content on the Internet is vanishing down the memory hole.

    Content which, for all we know, is accurate and of concern to the public.

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