By Muthoga Kioni
Cyberworld is an interesting place. You will find virtual libraries, gaming, blogging, photo exchange sites and social network sites among many others. One of the most popular sites in the Internet are the virtual discussion forums and blogs.
They typically allow you to post your rebuttal or comments, anonymously or otherwise, on a myriad of social, political or economic topics. Some of these interactive sites are invaluable.
Some popular Kenyan blogs generate a high number of comments and some are invariably defamatory and offensive. Therein lies the big risk of defamation.
Heated comments sometimes border on the defamatory, which is defined as a false accusation of an offence or a malicious misrepresentation of someone’s words or actions.
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What you should beware of is that those defamatory comments you "anonymously" post on a forum or blog can be traced back to you.
The Internet Service Provider (ISPs) have a role in this process.
With an application to the courts, an ISP can be made to reveal someone’s IP (Internet Protocol) address.
Conduits of transmission
The ISPs usually absolve themselves from any blame by asserting that they provide a means of transmitting communications without in any way participating in them.
This means they are mere conduits like the old postal company that delivers letters and packages. ISPs are, therefore, not liable for transmitting or temporarily storing defamatory comments.
They are, however, liable to some extent. When informed of the existence of these defamatory remarks, an ISP is obligated to remove the content.
If the ISP refuses to remove these comments, then it can be regarded as a publisher and can subsequently be sued for knowingly storing and transmitting defamatory remarks.
As an online discussion forum participant you need to know two simple essentials. Your "anonymous" diatribes can be traced back to you through your IP. Many inflammatory comments are, however, made in public cyber cafes.
This does not fully protect the author of the same from being identified.
The second essential is that if you become an online victim of insults or defamatory remarks, you can request an ISP to remove them. If the ISP refuses it becomes a publisher and legal action can be initiated against it.
—The writer ([email protected]) is an ICT Security and Forensic Specialist.