(This provides the context for “On Blogs and Searching for Evidence“).
I’m a blogger living in a country in Asia where the law is largely Common Law based (British legacy). I had setup a blog on blogger.com for a community of parents (of which I am one) interested in a certain educational outfit here. (Please bear with me for the time being, for not revealing specific details beyond “an Asian country” and “a certain educational outfit”. I assure you that this is all real!).
Armed with the blog, the blogging parents went about discussing many matters of interest to them, much of it about this specific education provider (“school”). Over several months, close to a hundred articles were posted on the blog, some of them very critical of the school’s handling of certain matters. For instance, when the school management tried to suppress one exam result which was unfavorable (and were heard beating a drum on other results which were better), the blog spoke out. Again, when it was found that the school management was not being truthful to parents about a loss of affiliation, and when they were justifying an increase in tuition and transport fees citing partial and incorrect information (misinformation?), the blog became a center of discussion on these matters.
The blog was open to comments and quite a lively discussion ensued on many topics. The house rules set it up as a community-moderated blog: anybody could post comments, contest already expressed opinions, object to comments stating grounds, etc. The school management was informed of the blog and was requested to join in the discussion; but they responded with a mass email to all parents asking them not to visit the blog as it was not their “official communication channel”. However, the management did track the blog closely and may even have posted a few comments on it (my guess — from the look of certain comments). To their credit they also did make some significant changes for the better, like appointing a new bus transport service provider, as the comments clearly documented how terrible the service was.
However, the real hard and persistent issues remained unresolved in the school. Gradually the interest in the blog waned as the problems remained, parents who had higher expectations found other schools, and I guess the remaining ones came to view it as a battle that cannot be won. The blogging exercise was almost written off as fruitless. Months went by without any articles being added. Only the “readers comments” remained alive and offered parents an avenue to speak out, now and then.
Several months passed by without event. I suspect that the management wanted to close off the blog for once and all. All on a sudden, this blogger was surprised by a legal attack by the owners of the school. The Statement of Claim filed in Court, cites a bunch of comments posted by readers, which they allege are defamatory. Part of their claim was also that I had (or “may have had”) posted these readers comments myself ! The legal attack began with a Court order (a so-called Anton Piller order) to search my hard disk. I am still objecting strenuously to these tactics, now with the help of a lawyer (and earlier representing myself in person).
(I know some of you may find it all surreal and really hard to believe, especially if you live in the US. However, this is real. The only reason I am not giving out further details is the legal situation).
As I mentioned, the blog in question is a community-moderated blog, in which readers’ comments do not go through any approval process.
One of the key points in my submissions to the Court, as regards the validity of the Anton Piller search, is that comments posted by readers (third parties) do not go through my computers (as comments do not need anybody’s approval), and will not leave any evidence in my hard disks. I sought to write this up more clearly so that a Judge who may not have the technical background can understand the issue and appreciate why my hard disk should be the last place to look. You can read that article at: “On Blogs and Searching for Evidence“.
However, the plaintiffs’ are asking the Court to strike out my affidavit. Their reasons ? They say that my article ( “On Blogs and Searching for Evidence” — it is submitted as part of my affidavit) contains “various comments of a general and unsubstantiated nature relating to blogs, web links and the like”. From there, they go on to say that the “whole of the Defendant’s affidavit should be struck off” … “as it contains nothing but opinion and conjecture”. They also do not relish my being an “expert”. (See image).
The article that I wrote, which according to the Plaintiffs is “nothing but opinion and conjecture”, is at “On Blogs and Searching for Evidence“. It was written for a non-technical audience, no doubt; but “conjecture” ?
Please read and share your views there: “On Blogs and Searching for Evidence“
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