The Civil liberties Web site, Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain (CACIB) claims it has been censored as a direct result of the Demon defamation case of last month.
Malcolm Hutty, director of CACIB and founder of ISP, Instant Web, says he was forced to remove a story on the CACIB site by particle physicist Laurence Godfrey who won his legal battle against Demon Internet last month for leaving defamatory statements on its servers.
The case created a huge amount of publicity. ISPs and civil liberty experts point out that the freedom of the Net is endangered by both the outcome and Justice Moreland's declaration that ISPs informed of defamatory material should be held responsible for content posted on their servers.
According to Hutty, Godfrey complained that a headline run on the CACIB site about another ISP being closed down was defamatory because it linked Godfrey to a case he had no direct involvement in. Hutty insists the headline "Godfrey's first victim" is fair.
"He [Godfrey] threatened me and my ISP with a writ," says Hutty. "We weren't even criticising Mr Godfrey personally: we were simply commenting on the adverse consequences of the outcome of Godfrey versus Demon Internet,"
Hutty's Instant Web, took the story down as a result of Godfrey's complaint. "It breaks my heart that the company I started is forced into censorship," says Hutty. "I got into the Internet because I believed in the promise of freedom for all; I never imagined it would be the most easily censored medium there is."
Mr Godfrey describes the affair as a "storm in a teacup", claiming Hutty is more interested in the publicity for himself rather than the details of the situation. "It looks good for Mr Hutty and allows him to pretend to be martyr," he says. Godfrey denies that his case is adversely affecting the freedom of the Internet. "Have a look at the Internet and see if it looks markedly different to you, " he says.
Hutty hits back claiming the Demon case has indeed damaged Internet freedom. "The number of complaints to ISPs are coming in at the rate of knots," he claims. "ISPs have to decide whether to defend an action or close the site. ISPs are in no position to determine whether something is in breach of copyright or defamatory. If they get it wrong, they lose £0.5m. Most ISPs are not the size of Demon and are terrified of the cost of fighting."
The controversial story is now back up, being posted from the US.
The latest court case between Demon and Dr Godfrey has left ISP's feeling shackled and running scared of further writs being issued. Go to the TalkBack forums to read what others are saying and have your say online.
Come and read the news comment about 'Dr Godfrey's big adventure' with Ken Young from AnchorDesk UK.