26 – Tuesday 26 January 2010 : libel?

In legal on January 26, 2010 by Gabor Tagged:

I have been threatened with action for libel.  An interesting experience for a lawyer, and one that has sent me back to the law books.

I do not think anything will come of  it, and this is why.

I am an active member of an internet law discussion forum.  Everyone is anonymous, posting under a user-name.  There is a poster who has troll-like tendencies*.  I will call him (or her) “Dementor” (not the pseudonym used).  Dementor certainly is very anti-lawyer. 

On Saturday I had posted in relation to another poster, that if he trained as a lawyer he might acquire intellectual and analytical rigour.  Dementor took my words, and adding his own peculiar twist, decided that as I had said that legal training can give “intellectual and analytical rigour”, I had claimed that only lawyers have intellectual and analytical rigour, and, taking two or three steps each of which strained the logic further, that I had therefore said he does not have intellectual and analytical rigour, thereby defaming him.  My response was short.  “Pithy” is probably a good word to use.

It is that response that is said to be libellous, and has led to accusatory e-mails and threats of legal action.   I don’t think it was.

The law of libel requires not only that defamatory words be published (I do not think that what I said was defamatory), but that the subject of the defamation is identified.  Dementor posts anonymously, under a pseudonym.  I do not know who he (or she) is.  Nor does anyone else.

How can I defame a determinedly anonymous person, so that they are held up to public contempt or ridicule?

Sorry Dementor, I don’t think so.

* Troll : link to Wikipedia definition (click here)


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