The European Court of human rights (ECHR) ruled on October 10 that an Estonian court was correct when it condemned Delphi, a news web site featuring anonymous comments, as a result of the offensive nature of some of the comments that could be found there.
Delphi had published a story about a ferry company that decided to alter some of their routes and it´s website allowed visitors to the page to post their own comments. After realizing the threatening content of some of these comments, the company filed a case, obtaining an award of 5,000 krons. The Estonian Supreme Court supported the decision, followed also by the ECHR.
It is article is 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights that protects the right to freedom of expression, a right that has been violated by the ECHR according to opponents of censorship. They point out that the new precedent could affect any web page that lets visitors leave anonymous comments, affecting the very viability of this medium.
However, the content of article 10 of the ECHR should also be taken into account, as it includes “the protection of the reputation or rights of others” as the limit of the right to freedom of expression. Also, as noted by the ECHR, the web site had taken commercial advantage of the comments and did not take appropriate measures to filter them.
It remains to be seen to what extent this decision can alter the situation in other European countries, like Spain or the United Kingdom.
Article by Mark Athos Franklin, native English-speaking lawyer at the Rodriguez Bernal legal practice.