As a lawyer I thought it might be useful to write a reference about 'Moderators and defamation'. This thread follows on from recent events but is not intended to re-open the issues surrounding the decision of any moderators but to give both moderators and forum members food for thought. I do not specialise in the law of defamation but I have direct experience of being a recipient of defamatory comments, both personal and commercial, being made in the public arena. We all acknowledge that Moderators of any forum have a difficult job, which is most likely to be unpaid. However, according to the laws of England and Wales they have a huge responsibility to ensure that the forum does not breach any terms of the forum and more importantly any laws that may apply, such as the Defamation Act 1996 and previous legislation. What is defamation? Defamation comes under two headings, namely: Libel and Slander. In short, and in layman's terms, Libel is where a defamatory statement is made in print (this includes, correspondence, posters, internet etc). Slander, whilst not directly relevant is related to the spoken word that may appear to be defamatory. What is a defamatory statement? There is no clear cut answer and any statement that is alleged to be defamatory will be assessed in the eyes of an ordinary man. Additionally, for a statement to be defamatory it must have reference to the recipient, who may be a business or a person. The following article makes a good read to explain what a defamatory statement is. http://www.swarb.co.uk/lawb/defDefamatory.shtml The role of the Moderator As we have already acknowledged that the role of the Moderator is indeed a difficult one and in most cases they have to make a decision based on objectivity. In law, Moderators can be held liable for any statement that appears to be defamatory because forum members are deemed to be 'authors' within the meaning under s.1(2) of the Defamation Act 1996. There is no question as to liability that an author will be liable for any defamatory statement. As for a Moderator, who has 'some element of control in publishing a defamatory statement' is likely to fall within the meaning of s.1(2) of the same Act and will therefore be held liable. With reference to previous threads, in my opinion, Moderators were correct to remove and/or lock a thread that has no purpose, whether defamatory or not, but has reference to the reputation/goodwill of a person(s) or undertaking. In the circumstances, the Moderators as 'publishers' reasonably allowed for the appropriate person to put forward his/her reasoning behind the allegation to afford the recipient to defend accordingly. The person who made the 'allegation' did not take the opportunity to substantiate the allegation nor did the person take the opportunity to post a formal apology and/or correction. The Moderators allowed a reasonable amount of time for the issues to be addressed by the parties involved and as they were not forthcoming but were being further aggravated by other inappropiate comments, it was just and right to lock and remove the thread. Having said the above, I hope this posting goes some way for us all in understanding the dilemma Moderator's face in reaching decisions as 'ordinary men' PS. This article is not intended to be an authoritive statement of the law nor does the author uphold the contents as to completeness and accuracy giving the informality of posting in a forum.