Posted by Chris Withers
on Sunday 30 October 2011, 08:02PM
So, HTFR has ceased to trade, a new company has sprung up under the same name, and is now threatening blog and review sites that contain comments about the old company...
I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds this all pretty unpleasant. I'm a firm advocate that people should be free to say what they want about people and companies online - it's fairly obvious if comments are written by idiots, and the number and type of negative comments leave the reader to form their own opinions about a company.
Sadly, the UK has some of the most ridiculous libel laws on the planet. These laws encourage companies and individuals to bully anyone who expresses views they don't like by threatening them with libel action. The central problem is that, unlike just about any other form of legal action, the onus is on the defendant to prove their innocence rather than the usual innocent-until-proven-guilty. This places people who administer small discussion forums such as this one in a very difficult position. The bullies know we are unlikely to have time or resources to fight them, and so we are left with little alternative but to cave and remove what might well be useful information for potential customers.
As a result, the only thing that I feel I can do is, when censoring posts as a result of bullying, is make readers of this site aware of exactly what has happened. In the case of "Hard to Find Ltd", this involved a set of threatening emails direct to the company that hosts my server that, in my opinion, defamed both myself and my company. These emails requested the removal of a bunch of posts relating to "Hard to Find Records". As a result of the threats I've received, people can no longer judge for themselves by looking at the balance of comments made whether or not to use a company, never mind the fact that the company in question no longer exists.
Me? I'm of the opinion that if a company has to resort to threatening libel action against web sites that just allow people to post views, positive or negative, of companies, then I won't send any custom their way. I'd also strongly urge anyone who finds this situation offensive to sign the petition over at the The Libel Reform Campaign and get in touch with their MP to make their views known.
I'm also left wondering why, if a brand is irreparably damaged, a new company that no longer focuses on records would seek to use a name and brand similar enough that search engine hits will invariably turn up negative comments about the previous company. In my opinion, that's just crazy...
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