If someone defames you, most people support your right to stop that person from doing it again, and to pursue legal remedies. If a small number of customers in a pub were making defamatory comments about you, and you tried to close the pub down, most people would think this was over-reacting.
Why am I talking about people in pubs? To give an analogy for people who do not spend all their time on the Internet.
Miss Ford claims messages posted by users of Mumsnet.com amount to defamation and wants the site taken off the Internet.
Unless she has a last-minute change of heart, the website, which is used by 250,000 mothers each month to swop ideas and experiences, will have to close because it cannot afford a costly court battle.
The row centres on about 30 'postings' - comments made on the website's electronic discussion boards - which have contained allegedly abusive comments about her.
The web site took down the postings when they were pointed out to them and they have now asked all their users not to talk about Ms Ford to avoid further legal problems. Mumsnet’s lawyers say that Ms Ford’s solicitors have objected to about 30 postings on the website since February, during which time the site has received an average of 10,000 postings a day.
Ms Ford and Mumsnet have been embroiled in the dispute for several months, according to the website. In January, the author asked for the transcript of an interview to be removed. After Mumsnet rejected the request, a lawyer’s letter followed, complaining of “vicious libels,” but suggested that if the interview were removed, the matter would end.
Mumsnet agreed to remove the interview in April, but Foot Anstey solicitors wrote another letter, asking for postings to be monitored and deleted if derogatory, and for damages. Mumsnet refused to pay, but said it was willing to agree to Ms Ford’s other demands. The lawyers wrote again to DSC on July 21. That letter listed three examples of allegedly defamatory postings, and demanded that the company act to “disable the website with immediate effect”.
DSC are the web hosts for Mumnet. This approach could be used to shut down any web site that is popular and allows user comments. Shutting down a website because of a handful of postings, that the site took down when they were notified, sets a very disturbing precedent.