Attention all ISPs and website owners!

United Kingdom

To reduce the likelihood of adverse consequences when a third party publishes offensive material on your website (or the website you are hosting), have you considered installing a "Report Offensive Message" button on your site? This will allow anyone spotting an offensive message on your website to alert you to the problem. If you promptly remove the material you may avoid any liability as you may then have a defence of “innocent dissemination.

The benefit of this sort of functionality on a website came to light last month in the case of James Murray v Jonathan Spencer, where Mr Murray sued Mr Spencer for publishing a libellous statement about him on the website, Friends Reunited. Friends Reunited had installed the button previously in order to head-off complaints made about offensive material posted by third parties. Mr Murray notified the website owners and the defamatory material was promptly removed.

In consequence, Friends Reunited were not sued, but Mr Spencer was, and had to pay damages and costs.

For further information, please contact Karen Marshall at [email protected] or on +44 (0)20 7367 2522.