Keith-Smith v Williams

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Keith-Smith v Williams
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Court High Court of Justice
Decided 21 March 2006
Citation(s) [2006] EWHC 860 (QB)
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Macduff J

Keith-Smith v Williams is a 2006 English libel case that confirmed that existing libel laws applied to internet discussion.[1]

It was seen as important because it was seen as the first UK internet libel case that represented two individuals rather than one party being an Internet Service Provider,[2] and was the first British case involving a successful prosecution of an individual poster within a chat room.[3][4] The Manchester Evening News claimed that this contradicted a common assumption among bloggers that it was the publisher and not the writer who was responsible for any libel claims that they may generate.[5]

Mark Stephens, the head of media law at Stephens Finer Innocent, characterised the case as "a dark day for freedom of speech with broad implications",[6] which was denied by the plaintiff Michael Keith Smith.[7]

The case involved an unemployed ex-teacher Tracy Williams falsely accusing a former UKIP candidate, Michael Keith Smith, of being a sexual offender and racist bigot.[8] The court ordered her to pay £10,000 plus costs.[9][10] Although the accusations were made in a Yahoo discussion group with about 100 members, damages were awarded as the remarks were available throughout the world.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Warning to chatroom users after libel award for man labelled a Nazi, Owen Gibson, March 23, 2006, The Guardian
  2. ^ "In Keith-Smith v Williams, the Claimant a former UK Independence party member has been awarded 10,000 GB Sterling and is important as it represents probably the first case of two private individuals at court as well as the use or abuse of blogging." Libel on the Internet?, Michael Coyle, Lawdit Solicitors
  3. ^ Chat room insults lead to internet libel victory
  4. ^ more about that UK libel decision, cybersoc.com
  5. ^ Bloggers beware of libel trials by Simon Donohue, Friday, 24th March 2006
  6. ^ Verdict casts dark cloud over freedom of speech, Times, March 22, 2006
  7. ^ Free speech and internet law, Letters to the Editor, Times, March 28, 2006
  8. ^ Online libel costs woman £10,000, BBC, 22 March 2006
  9. ^ UKIP candidate wins £10,000 for internet libel
  10. ^ Damages on Online Defamatory Statements in UK EDRI.org
  11. ^ Smith v Williams (UK, 2006) Caslon Analytics