Dear Aunty B,
We have put up forums and noticed some rude comments about some people going up. Someone told us that we could be sued. Is that right? I thought the people who put the comments up were responsible.
In a perfect world they would be responsible and us publishers would not have to hire lawyers!!
Look, anything on your site is your responsibility, and yes you can be sued. That comes as a shock doesn’t it? In fact it is far more likely you will be sued than the person who wrote the comments because you are providing the vehicle in which they are published.
So what do you do? You have to moderate your forums, which can be a pain on the neck. I have heard of some companies overseas who can do it quite cheaply.
Or else look for a mum at home who can keep an eye on it for you. Otherwise you could appoint a member of your community to watch their specific area and throw people off and take comments down if they post litigious comments or malicious material.
You also have to watch your forums for other forms of undesirables. There are people being paid to plant comments in your forums with links back to their own sites because that boosts their position in the search engines. They have a negative impact on your forums as they are there for non-web 2.0 purposes. Then there are the crazies who might use your website to spread racism and such.
So the message is this – with forums comes community comes responsibility.
Your Aunty B.