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Moderating posts on a review website

Moderating posts on a review website

Moderating posts on a review website. What are the requirements and what should your policy be

There are different rules for website operators in the UK, which place more responsibility on them rather than on operators of websites in the United States.

Can a website operator be sued for defamation

What are the website moderation requirements in the UK

How website operators in the UK should respond to complaints about content

Legal support for website operators in the UK

Can a website operator be sued for defamation

Yes. A website operator, who operates a website which is published in the UK, can be sued for defamation in the UK in relation to posts by third party users. UK law is relatively stringent when it comes to the liability for defamation of website and forum operators. In the USA, a forum or a review website operator, whether they moderate posts or not, are, generally speaking, immune from liability.

Whilst the immunity only applies to US based companies, when the same companies operate in the UK, they become the subject on English defamation law, and as a result, could be found liable for defamation in the UK in relation to third party posts. A relatively unique feature of English law, is that it assumes a world-wide jurisdiction, which means English laws may have an impact on US website operators, if they publish defamatory posts against someone who is located in the UK.

Website Operator Moderation and Legal Obligations Legal Advice FAQ

In the UK, moderation of review sites by operators isn't legally mandated. Nonetheless, proactive moderation can help mitigate potential legal issues, as certain situations might make the operator responsible for user-generated content. Operators are generally not liable for third-party comments unless they've been alerted to contentious content and fail to act.

Moderation should be balanced against the purpose of the site and the nature of user comments. While there's no prescribed level, operators should monitor for illegal content such as hate speech and be responsive to complaints, considering the context and relevant laws.

Criminal liability for website operators in the UK is uncommon but possible. They could be liable for knowingly facilitating or conspiring in criminal activities on their platforms. Awareness and responsiveness to the site's content are crucial to prevent such legal implications.

Reasons include addressing defamation complaints, handling harassment issues, managing data protection and privacy breaches, and responding to reports of hate speech. Operators should follow prescribed legal processes for dealing with such matters and maintain robust website policies.

Website moderation doesn't automatically mean liability for third-party content. In the UK, operators who moderate content to enforce legal standards and their site's policies are generally not held liable for users' posts. It's crucial for site operators to have clear moderation policies that reflect this approach, offering protection against potential legal issues.

What are the website moderation requirements in the UK

In relation to moderating posts on a website, whilst there is no such requirement under English law, website operators are expected to act responsibly and promptly, or they may face legal liability to posts that are defamatory or that breach privacy rights or data protection laws. To moderate all comments on a high-traffic online forum is naturally a very time-consuming and perhaps unrealistic task. Consequently, taking down posts upon notification and evaluation might be adequate, although this is not necessarily a requirement for a UK based website.

Some website operators choose not to proactively moderate their websites but instead relay on complaints that they receive from the website users. This, generally speaking, should be adequate and acceptable in terms of their legal requirements.

How website operators in the UK should respond to complaints about content

Failure to respond to complaints about content, could result in liability of the website operator to third party content. It is not an option for a website operator to prevent internet users from posting complaints as there are legal requirements for website operators to publish up-to-date contact details on their websites. As a website operator in the UK, you might want to provide a link on each page of the website, to direct internet users to process of reporting inappropriate content. Website operators’ liability to any posts by third parties may be determined by the way the website operator responds to the notification of harmful content by internet users.

Legal support for website operators in the UK

If you operate a website in the UK and you feel that you need to have a legal opinion in relation to your compliance with the law, or advice on what your removal policy should be, please feel free to get in touch and we will help. Our lawyers provide on the spot legal advice to put to rest concerns by website and online forum operators regarding policies and legal notices. Following initial instructions, we will be able to effectively provide you with legal advice promptly and in a cost-effective way whenever you require this guidance. 

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