Defamation on social media with TripAdvisor comments
An Italian restaurant brought a criminal claim for defamation against one of its customers that had published a negative comment on them on TripAdvisor complaining about the quality of the wine so creating a precedent that might impact on the Internet liability regime in Italy with reference to defamation on social media.
The outcome of the potential dispute is still uncertain since it is in its early stages but this case generates interesting concerns as to the relationship between the principle of freedom of speech and the need to protect the reputation of entities to which the comment is addressed.
Also, it is interesting because it might stress once again the close link between the Internet and the real world. Indeed, the general perception is that people on the Internet feel free to perform whatever they want without restrictions. However, the recent cases involving a blogger convicted for defamatory comments of his users and a Facebook page manager convicted for its comments deemed to “instigate and encourage to commit a crime” show that, in the current “social” world where we are living, people are certainly accountable for what they “virtually” perform on the Internet.
We previously discussed about the liability regime applicable to Facebook fan pages and how webmasters, advertisers and any Internet operator shall act in order to avoid potential liabilities deriving from the actions of their users. However, it is clear that new and more effective rules shall be put place.
A first attempt towards that has been performed by the Italian communications authority with the new enforcement procedure for copyright breaches occurring on the Internet that will come into force at the end of March 2014. This procedure does not rely on a notice and take down mechanic that following the negative experience of the US DMCA did not appear anymore the most effective procedure. But it seems more similar to the dispute resolution procedures applicable to domain names with the peculiarity that while domain name disputes are managed by private entities and therefore do not create a judicial precedent and are based on very limited principles, the decisions to be issued by the Italian communications authority shall be based on copyright regulations that are much broader and if misinterpreted in the short timeframe in which decisions have to be issued, they might create a dangerous precedent.
We will see the developments of the above, but certainly the Internet needs new rules that however might not come from public authorities but by the industry itself. This is a very interesting topic and feel free to contact me Giulio Coraggio (firstname.lastname@example.org), to discuss. And follow me on my Facebook page, Twitter and Google+ and become one of my friends on LinkedIn.
WRITTEN BY GIULIO CORAGGIO
IT, gaming, privacy and commercial lawyer at the leading law firm DLA Piper. You can contact me via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at +39 334 688 1147.