ECtHR finds Google’s blog-publishing service not liable for offensive comments

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has rejected that Google’s blog-publishing service violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by not immediately removing offensive comments from a reported blog post.

In 2011, Mr Tamiz stood for election for council in Kent, England, although resigned after news broke of derogatory comments he had made against women on Facebook. On the day of Mr Tamiz’s resignation, a blog post appeared on the ‘London Muslim’ blog, which was facilitated by Google Inc.’s blog publishing service which is registered in the US. The blog reported on the derogatory comments made by Mr Tamiz, and to which comments were made by anonymous posters that Mr Tamiz found offensive.

The blog publishing service allowed for reporting of potentially defamatory content, with such material only removed if infringement is found by a court. Mr Tamiz reported the blog, although it was not removed until three months later by which time Mr Tamiz had brought defamation proceedings against Google Inc.

The UK High Court rejected Mr Tamiz’s case, reasoning that the applicant had not proven evidence of a ‘real and substantial tort’, considering most of the comments to be “mere vulgar abuse”. The Court was also of the view that Google Inc. had played a purely passive role, and therefore could not be considered a publisher under Common Law.

This was upheld by the ECtHR, which came to the conclusion that the UK national courts had conducted an appropriate balancing test, as the primary purpose of the ‘real and substantial tort test’ was to ensure that a fair balance was struck between Articles 8 (respect for private life) and 10 (freedom of expression). The Court stated that a person’s reputation is protected under Article 8, however the notion of ‘respect’ is not clear and can be protected in different ways – thus falling within the margin of appreciation of the contracting states.

Click here  to read the full decision in Tamiz v United Kingdom.

Click here to read a report on the case.





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