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Cairo on 13/9/2009

This is a legal paper from The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, ANHRI, to clarify the responsibility of web masters and site owners towards comments posted by members or mere visitors of forums, blogs, news sites ..etc, such that no legal liability lies on site managers due to publication felonies as well as reserving the rights of parties who claim offended by such comments to publish clarifying comments on the same site or request to delete offensive comments or all of the previously mentioned.

The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information : A Legal Stand A legal proposal to :

* Web site owners, administrators and web masters.
* Bloggers, forum members, visitors and all who post topics, articles, opinion posts or comments on internet sites
* Any person addressed by posts or comments.
* The general prosecution
* Judges specialized in such cases

Topic and Comment
The topic or article is the agreed upon content which is subject to commenting. This content is published by site manager on a personal site (as in a blog) or by a member in public site like forums and other social utilities where discussion topics are published for all.

The comment is the text posted by visitors or members of the sites in response to the initial topic.

In many cases, the responses develop into side arguments between many parties and usually drift away from the essence of the initial topic.

The Contributor And The Administrator
In case of a personal site , the contributor is the administrator, yet in other cases the contributor can only post his text, whether an initial topic or a comment. Only the administrator can alter or delete any content at any time.

Previous and Subsequent Censorship
Previous Censorship: comments are screened by the administrator before publishing
Subsequent Censorship : comments are published automatically without intervention of the administrator

Q : What is the responsibility of the topic author or the site administrator of what is published on their site by others?

A : In principle, no one is to take liability of the deed of another. This implies that the topic author is responsible for what they wrote and published.

Q: What about offensive comments written by visitors of the site?
A: if someone considered a comment as offensive to oneself, there are the following solutions

1. The offended could post a counter or clarifying comment
2. The offended could send a legal warning to the site administrator informing them of the apprehended offense on specified location(s) and requesting to delete them or publish a clarification or response within a working week. The same procedures and requests could be included in a registered letter instead of legal notices.
3. The party assuming offense is responsible of delivering the notices and letters and verifying that administrators have received all documents. No web administrator should be legally questioned until proven to have received a complaint from the offended party ( notice, letter or verified email)
4. In some sites there are immediate reporting tools. Users should use such tools like pressing a button or following a link as preliminary complaint procedures.

Q: What is the responsibility of the web administrator in case of refraining to publish a response or a clarification from the offended or refused to delete an offensive content after a complaint reception is conformed?

A : the administrator is thereby considered an associate not an offender as the administrator is consenting to the content claimed offensive (if proven to offensive). It is the same responsibility of the chief editor upon refusing to publish a reply.

• Summary
The police and the general prosecution should not accept any complaint against a web site administrator until all complaint procedures are completed in form.

* Providing the content claimed offensive and its link on the internet.
* A documented confirmation that the site administrator has been notified of the content claimed offensive or that the administrator has refused to publish a response from the party claiming offense.

In all cases the web site administrator is not considered a doer as the responsibility is personal unless there is a proven consent from the administrator on the published content claimed to be offensive.

It should also be taken into account that public figures are subject to criticism and a tolerance margin is required. If they accept to take public responsibility then they have agreed to live outside their privacy shell.

Finally , It should be taken into account that restricting freedom of expression has more negative consequences that misusing freedom of expression.

The Arabic Network For Human Rights
Cairo on 13/9/2009