Governing body shuts down local Website

Governing body shuts down local Website
Free speech advocates (and that should mean everybody) need to pay attention to this one. The Register reports from London that the local council in Knowsley caused the temporary shut down of a Website whose mission was to keep tabs on the council. The man, Mick Dempsey, runs Kirkby Times, a fiercely independent news site which provides “local news, not spin-doctored rubbish.” It receives contributions from local people and takes particular relish in keeping tabs on the activities of the local council. He’s found another host for his site and is back in business, but the incident poses an interesting legal problem for bloggers and other alternative journalists, because the council went to Dempsey’s distribution channel instead of appealing directly to him. This ability to gag a journalist on the grounds that what is being reported MIGHT be defamatory is unique, because an ISP is a separate business entity that isn’t shielded by free speech laws. Think about it. Newspapers and magazines publish and distribute their own products. Broadcasters do likewise. Websites, however, rely on the 3rd-party services of an Internet Service Provider to distribute their content, and these people aren’t interested in fighting legal battles. The Knowsley Council said, “Boo!” and the ISP caved.

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