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Google Defamation Suit in India Demonstrates Divide Over Freedom of Speech

Generally, the US is one of the most litigious countries in the world–like you needed me to tell you that. However, when it comes to defamation, it’s often a tough argument to win simply because the constitution promises citizens the freedom of speech–you won’t win, simply because you don’t like someone’s published opinion of you.

So, it’s interesting to see that Google has been sued by an Indian construction company, trying to get the identity of an anonymous blogger. The defamation lawsuit claims the blogger–known only as "Toxic Writer"–has attacked the company with his "hate campaign."

The blog has since been taken down and, at this point, we would normally see the likes of the EFF come to the defense of the blogger’s freedom of speech. Not so, outside of the United States. As John Watson, associate professor at American University specializing in communication law, tells Wired.com:

“One of the most common places for people to sue, because they will generally win, are nations that are or have formerly been part of the British Commonwealth, where there is no First Amendment, and the law looks more toward protecting the reputation of people than protecting the free speech of speakers,” Watson told Wired.com.

“Google which is an American corporation enjoys a great deal of protection here in the United States, but in the rest of the world, it’s subject to the laws of wherever these articles or communications are published,” he added.

Hmm, where have we learned this lesson before?

We have a broad geographic audience at Marketing Pilgrim, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this subject. Should bloggers enjoy some kind of protection for their rants, opinions, and, sometimes, unsubstantiated claims? Or, should all bloggers be held accountable for their words?

  • http://www.searchengineoptimizationjournal.com Nick Stamoulis

    This is very interesting indeed. Whenever the freedom of speech topic comes up it always brings a good about of debate. My thought is that bloggers should back up any claims with as much information and good sources as possible.

    Becasue any person can start a blog and write and say anything they want, blogging as a medium will continue to evolve, with legitimate and spam blogs (aka splogs) fighting for the attention of readers.

    The old saying is still true…”consider the source!”

    Nick Stamoulis’s last blog post..SEO And Modifying URL’s

  • http://www.greatpriceshere.com Nicole Price

    Freedom of expression is all very well as long as you are not trampling on someoneelse’s toes without any basis. Litigation in any country is expensive, and if someone is suing google, they should be willing to go the distance. Unless we have the full story, it will be difficult to comment.

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..My Tryst With Hard Drive Recovery

  • http://www.sannayak.com San Nayak

    WoW, it is really interesting to here this. It is also big of a deal to comment on this issue. I personally believe there is a “freedom of speech” in India as long as we really understand the real meaning of it. There is no place for baseless facts or arguments in this world. We all have rights to quote our voice and answerable to it when it gets on us.

    San Nayak’s last blog post..A Must Watch Video for Inspiration by Professor Randy Pausch – Last Lecture

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  • http://www.manuscrypts.com manuscrypts

    Hmm, as an individual I’m entitled to my opinion. But if you don’t like it you can choose to delete this comment. So, there are checks and balances around. the company could very well refute Toxic Writer’s claims with proof and make a mockery of him. but if he’s right about it, the issue will be taken up by others too.
    i think bloggers themselves should be mature enough to categorise their rants as opinions, facts, guesstimates, ‘a little bird told me’ etc.. and they should be accountable.
    more importantly, its amazing how, even 4 years after the avnish bajaj (ebay) case, we, in India are still not clear about the laws, and liabilities of the publishing/distributing platform!!

    manuscrypts’s last blog post..Blog?Blogger..Bloggest

  • http://www.renovateaustralia.com Bill Hutchison

    Living in Australia I came across this first hand with my renovation web-site, http://www.renovateaustralia.com.

    We are renovating and house and had it lifted with the plan to enclose under. We hired a contractor to do the work for us, but after nearly 9-months of almost nothing being done we told him we wanted out of the contract. It got a bit ugly after that.

    On my web-site I documented some of what was happening, but actually left out the juicy stuff. I received a letter from this contractors lawyer stating that I would be sued if I didn’t pull down the offending material and apologise. I pulled down the material, but did not apologise and that would be admitting that I did something wrong, when all I did was state what was happening.

    If I had pursued it I don’t think that there would have been a basis for the lawsuit. But to fight it would have cost money, so I folded. It ended up being a pretty good scare tactic because he got what he wanted.

    It was not a pleasant experience, but it certainly made me a lot more careful with what I write on my site. After signing a new builder I waited for nearly 6-months before I put his name on the site, for fear that if things didn’t work out I would be put in a vulnerable situation again.

    Bill Hutchison’s last blog post..Stop the Sway in a Queenslander

  • http://www.fiftystudio.com/news Fifty Studio

    it’s also interesting to see “Freedom of Speech” – a phrase found in the U.S. Constitution, applied to other countries. Now, the U.S. doesn’t have trademark to this or anything, but it’s ironic ….

    Fifty Studio’s last blog post..I’m a Web Designer

  • http://www.poems.md Ashley

    Freedom of speech is a fair tendency but who follows it now ?

  • http://www.seekposition.com My SEO Experiment

    Wow, but thanks to google – his identify will remain hidden =) go Google

    My SEO Experiment’s last blog post..My first step – Getting links from blogs

  • http://technotip.org SATISH

    In India there is no problem with “Freedom of Speech”, people speak whatever they want…..but the irony is, most of them don’t hear it, as everyone is indulged busily in commenting on eachother —- I am telling this by keeping Indian politicians in my mind.
    Everything else in India is cool. And about the court decision, it will be right in India, in most of the cases.

    SATISH’s last blog post..Feedburner Chicklet after Migration

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  • http://webmasters-forum.org Webmaster’s Forum

    I don’t understand why that company was so bothered about it….was that blog that famous??

  • http://technotip.org SATISH

    @Webmaster’s Forum, Hope it was a controversial post to get attention….but unfortunately it got the attention of court!

    SATISH’s last blog post..Google face Lawsuit in India

  • http://blog-advisor.blogspot.com Amarnath

    All said and done, google is not going to be brought down on its knees as the company which has filed suit thinks!!

    Amarnath’s last blog post..What is SEO?

  • http://www.playablefreeonlinegames.com Games

    Bloggers should not be held accountable for their rants. We should have freedom of speech specially in the blogosphere.

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