2Clix lawsuit a 'chilling' attack on free speech

2clix’s lawsuit against Whirlpool creator Simon Wright could spell the end of useful Internet forums

Vaile feels that the law has not got the balance right in supporting an operator that takes nasty and malicious comments out, because that very act makes them responsible for everything else they leave on.

2Clix's lawsuit echoes a long standing issue in Australian law; namely our lack of a clear and defined Bill of Rights protecting free speech.

"Australian law is much harsher towards the publisher than it is in, say the U.S., where they have the First Amendment to the Constitution which gives a constitutional right to freedom of speech.

"We've got some of the worst parts of liability for this sort of thing -- injurious falsehoods and defamation -- but we don't have a Bill of Rights or free speech rights.

"In many ways, the law in Australia can be much more easily used to suppress free speech and threaten people making reasonable comments about products or services.

"Politicians and governments have been happy to have a much more dangerous environment for people to make statements in," he says.

Vaile says that there is simply no reward for monitoring an Internet forum, and 2Clix's case illustrates that as a content host you are better off leaving every single post - regardless of how irrelevant, nasty, or fictional it may be - in order to escape legal responsibility.

Ultimately, this could spell the end of fair and accurate Web forums, as their effectiveness at informing consumers will suffer because of a lack of moderation and monitoring, whereas self-censorship admits responsibility and opens the door for legal action.

Vaile's sentiments were echoed by Dale Clapperton, Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia, in an email to subscribers of the EFA media release list.

Clapperton called 2Clix's action "an attack on freedom of speech and the ability of consumers to engage in legitimate online criticism".

"One of the great benefits of the Internet is that it allows consumers to become better informed, by searching for information about products or services. If negative comments about poor quality goods or services cant be published for fear of a lawsuit, consumers will be unable to properly inform themselves."

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