BRAIN FOOD: Webspace rules - Dangers of online activism

BRAIN FOOD: Webspace rules - Dangers of online activism - Taking the microphone at the AGM to press fat cats for a straight answer has been the right of shareholders the country over for many years. But such behaviour may not be so tolerated online. Ponder the misfortune of investors who recently faced libel action after postings about a listed leisure company in an online chat room. Complaints and accusations led to several column inches in the national press. Online activities leave footprints across the internet, and even anonymous postings can be traced.

by IAN JEFFERY, a partner of Lewis Silkin Solicitors:ian.jeffery@lewissilkin.com
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Taking the microphone at the AGM to press fat cats for a straight answer has been the right of shareholders the country over for many years. But such behaviour may not be so tolerated online. Ponder the misfortune of investors who recently faced libel action after postings about a listed leisure company in an online chat room. Complaints and accusations led to several column inches in the national press. Online activities leave footprints across the internet, and even anonymous postings can be traced.

The courts now readily order disclosure of contact details of those publishing offending material under an assumed name. Bulletin board and chatroom providers are often liable for information published by others on their site, and should act quickly if complaints are received. But think hard before policing shareholder moans through legal action. It's a hard, expensive way of washing dirty linen and could incur censure from an even wider group.

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