A Melbourne-based lawyer is taking the battle against vitriolic bloggers up a notch, saying social media has intensified the level of revile and abuse of public figures.
In an interview published by The Sydney Morning Herald today, Stuart Gibson, Hollywood's go-to defamation lawyer in Melbourne, estimates that in the past five years the number of anonymous hate blogs on the web has increased at least 100-fold.
"I can't believe it with some of these cases. There people go home to their wife and kids, have dinner, then saddle up at the computer and launch these bullshit missiles. Just load up the torpedoes and go 'bang'," the SMH quotes Gibson.
The lawyer, who runs his own firm in William Street Melbourne, acts for a Hollywood list including Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. He says many of these stars now prefer to sue Australian publication in Australia, instead of the United States, because Australian laws are more favourable to public figures.
Writer and media personality Marieke Hardy last month fell victim to the problem of negative blogging and the law when she accused the wrong man of writing a hate blog about her. She agreed to may the man compensation of about $13,000.
But Gibson said the laws of defamation apply equally to the online world, and users of Facebook and anonymous bloggers can be found. The role of hosts such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook is increasingly important, he said, and their involvement is embroiled in internet defamation cases because they have deep pockets, the SMH reports.
In October last year the Queensland Supreme Court ordered Google to release the name of a blogger who had defamed a Gold Coast author. Gibson's law firm launched Australia's first defamation action against Google on behalf of a client objecting to the "search-engine snippets", the summarised list that appears in a Google search. The lawyer said a lot of the firm's work is removing those snippets. "Google will remove stuff if put under enough pressure," he told the SMH.
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