25 Jan 2007

Old rules apply in cyberspace

By Isabelle Chan, ZDNet Asia
Thursday , January 25 2007 06:28 PM

There is a clear legal line when it comes to blogging, and those that spread false information electronically may land themselves in legal hot water, lawyers say.

Commenting on the recent case where two Malaysian bloggers were sued for defamation by the New Straits Times, Singapore-based lawyer Vijai Parwani at Parwani & Co, said: "It must be remembered that defamation is a legitimate action in most Commonwealth jurisdictions. The only country which champions free speech over defamation is the United States, where the law requires proof of 'actual malice' in order to succeed where the party defamed is a public figure.

"So, it is not surprising that the action in Malaysia has taken its current course," Parwani added.

Be it publishing in a traditional medium like print, or the Internet, the same rules apply.

IT lawyer Bryan Tan at Keystone Law Corp said: "Blogging is just like publishing, and just because it feels like you are writing your diary does not mean it is like your diary. A blog is a publication open to the whole world."

Mark Lim, director of law firm Tay Peng Chin, also noted an area where there is still a lack of definition. "Jurisdictional issues are still evolving", he said, noting that Web sites cross geographical boundaries, but "the law is still unclear in this area" of cross-border legislation.

Another potential legal issue pertains to third-party comments on blogs. Parwani noted: "Some blogs allow a third party to post comments, and this is where it gets complicated. To what extent would the blogger be liable for the contents posted on the blog by a third party?"

According to lawyers, disclaimers only go so far.

Parwani explained: "Certainly a disclaimer clause would aid the blogger in a claim against defamation, but common sense dictates that a disclaimer clause surely cannot be the panacea for the blogger if he knows the contents posted on his blog are defamatory of someone, but chooses to do nothing about it."

He added: "I am not aware of any recent case where the courts have held that a disclaimer clause would absolve the blogger of all liability, and I dare venture to add that the courts would not allow a blogger to take absolute refuge behind the cloak of a disclaimer clause if the issue were to arise."

And what about media companies that host blogs written by third parties who are not full-time employees? Well, they can still be liable, said Tan.

"I think if it is non-staff, these companies can claim they are like network service providers who enjoy protection under section 10 of the Electronic Transactions Act," he explained. "But their liability starts once they have notice of these offensive postings."

He added: "Companies running blog sites should remove blogs when requested to do so either by the authorities or the courts."

Parwani said a dose of common sense and taking responsibility for their blogs will help bloggers go a long way in avoiding a potential defamation lawsuit.

"Even if the claim is thrown out by the court at the end of the day, you certainly do not want to go down the road of having to defend the matter and incurring unnecessary legal costs along the way," he added.

For those who want to stay on the right side of the law, Parwani advised: "Keep the blog about yourself and your thoughts without having to make specific references to any particular individual.

"If you have to make reference to someone, then ensure that it is the truth and nothing but the whole truth," he added.

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Matilah_Singapura said...

What a load of shite.

I can call The US President — self-appointed "Leader of The Free World", a corrupt scum bag Nazi dictator, and if I did that in the US I would actually have a PROTECTED RIGHT to do so. I don't have to offer any proof — and just leave opinion for what it is — MY OWN (i.e. private property) subjective truth.

... but I can't do the same in my own country? I can't publish an OPINION? No one is forced to read it nor are they obligated to believe me.

What's the matter with some of these Asian "leaders"?

Are they hung up about the size of their penises?

soci said...


sometimes I think i might be in love with you.

when lawyers feel that they know what they are talking about in regards to the internet - we should take them out and castrate them.

Anonymous said...

Matilah_Singapura said...

"What a load of shite.

I can call The US President — self-appointed "Leader of The Free World", a corrupt scum bag Nazi dictator, and if I did that in the US I would actually have a PROTECTED RIGHT to do so. I don't have to offer any proof — and just leave opinion for what it is — MY OWN (i.e. private property) subjective truth."

You evidently don't play golf or you would have heard of OB markers?

*Shite* are those fellows currently bombing the Sunnis in Iraq so I don't know why you are even mentioning them here.

You also evidently don't know the concept of the Sage King. Read Confucius 101.

You simply don't undermine the moral authority of your leaders. Never. Ever.

However, Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Dave Letterman and their ilk lampooning their Prez Shrub on American national TV is ok. And deservedly so.

Why? Because The Shrub looks like a chimp but really has the IQ of a toad. So that's ok.

Our great leaders and our Cabinet alone probably have the IQ of the British Cabinet, Malaysia and the rest of S.E.Asia combined.

You denigrate and lampoon geniuses and Sage Kings at your peril.

As Bushy boy might say ..."Hope this calcifies everything". :-)

Asian Boy

P.S. Did Confucius ever use defamation laws to silence his critics? Anyone know?

Matilah_Singapura said...

I don't give a shit(e) about OB markers, libel laws, seditious speech laws, politically correct speech and associated ideas which emanate from the minds of people who have fucked-up self-esteem, emotional baggage and dangerous hang-ups. These "OB markers" and the like are someone else's standards, not mine.

Other people are welcome to their standards, their hang-ups and their demons as long as they don't FORCE me to comply to their world-view. I don't force anyone to comply with my standards — no one has to agree with my opinion or even read my posts for that matter.

So why do I blog?

Because I can!

Freedom of speech, is exactly that: FREEDOM of speech.


Another Asian Boy — who won't take any shit(e) from any presumptuous Asian-wanker tyrant — including the tyranny of traditions like "blind obedience", or "surrender to authority".

Fuck Confucious. Fuck Asian Values and Fuck the cum stains who support Confused Asian Values.



My god, another fan! [raise curtain, step up to footlights, and BOW]

In Henry VI, Shakespeare said "kill all the lawyers". That is exactly what a despot does — he tramples all over justice and corrupts the profession of Law ("kills the lawyers") — a profession necessary to protect the people from the arbitrary bullying of the state.

One day the law society might actually do something and stand for justice. As the "separation of state powers" is all but missing in S'pore, our lawyers may be The Peoples' only hope.

With the exception of people like Mr Ravi, where's the legal comment from the law society?

Damn shame David Marshall is gone, and Francis Seow is "away". Politics aside, at least those guys had a conscience when it came to JUSTICE.