One of the topics often discussed behind the scenes at forums, in the moderation rooms, are those of legal issues concerning pulling threads. Some forums have strict policy that anything that might resemble an legal issue, will be pulled. For example; the discussion of companies, specifically how bad company ABC is. Often a PM or email will be sent to the moderators or the administrators to have the thread pulled. It is then up to the administrators (forum owners) to decide on what to do. Some forums have a policy of free speech, and they will not pull anything from the forums except for outright spam.
There are also concerns with reprinting articles, documents and essays online. Over at WebmasterWorld, there is a thread named Liability Issues Return Concerning Online Posts, started by the owner of WebmasterWorld, who is all too familiar with these cases. The main problem is, Internet law is still very immature, let alone forum topics.
Brett quotes from Techdirt:
...a libel lawsuit against a business professor who posted a student's essay to the web to start a discussion. The problem was that the essay detailed the story from one of his students talking about how a company, Ben-Tech, had allegedly pushed him to take confidential materials from Siemens, where he was employed at the time. While posting the paper to the internet was mainly for class discussion only, Google found it, and that helped Ben-Tech find it, and decide that it was libelous.
And then posts his thoughts on the topic:
So we have three parties at risk here: - the students for making strong statements that may or may not be slanderous or libelous. - the professor for is potentially illegal actions. - the search engine for publishing the paper without permission.
This is 2005. My bet, is the kid gets the shaft and the college absolves itslef of the incident.
If Ben-Tech were smart, they would drop: a) the legal action. b) make a large donation to the college. c) ask for rebuttal time in front of the class by their attorney. d) ask that the rebuttal be published on the web. e) apologize to the college for dragging it into court. f) walk away with a masterful gain in Public relations.