back to article Mumsnet ordered to give users' real life IDs and messages to plastic surgeon they criticised

The UK parenting website Mumsnet has been ordered by a court to give up the identities of two users who criticised a plastic surgeon, along with the contents of their private messages. Dr Jesper Sorensen issued a High Court claim against the website, seeking information about the identities of users “Skohl” and “Blackfairy7”. …

  1. nsld

    makes a change

    normally people just hack into mumsnet to get the information.....

  2. sorry, what?
    Unhappy

    Seems wrong to me...

    If the surgeon is allowed to see this material directly. I'm OK with the idea of an informed and independent arbiter, one that can have both sides of the story and is able to determine whether or not the comments amount to libel.

    Giving the details to the surgeon feels too open to abuse the other way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems wrong to me...

      "one that can have both sides of the story and is able to determine whether or not the comments amount to libel."

      That's called a judge and jury (where applicable). It's not up to others to make that decision.

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Seems wrong to me...

      I don't know if what you say is possible under UK law or not but it would seem, if that were wanted, it would be up to the Mumsnet CEO to have opposed the order unless such a 'safety net' were put in place.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "normally hacks* just use mumsnet to get articles"

    Fixed It for You

    *that's Fleet Street - not you, El Reg

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Penis Beaker"

    That's all we need to know.

    1. Dabooka Silver badge

      Re: "Penis Beaker"

      Centerparks

      That is all

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Penis Beaker"

        The Oxo tower?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: "Penis Beaker"

          Apparently a "penis beaker" if for dicks that like to clean up after themselves.

          1. goldcd

            Re: "Penis Beaker"

            I read that throughout the chain of comments as "BReaker"

            I new Mumsnet was a strange place, but.. I was intrigued.

  5. John H Woods

    Errm ...

    If they have posted potentially libellous information on a public forum, there is a reason for requesting their identities. What I can't get my head around is the request for any private messages they have passed between each other. Can anyone enlighten me?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Errm ...

      At a guess, to see if there was any conspiracy to libel.

      One should be able to compare notes with others online on medical procedures without fearing libel charges.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Errm ...

        "One should be able to compare notes with others online on medical procedures without fearing libel charges."

        And indeed you can, provided it's based on fact and not hearsay or lies. I've not read what they have said, so no idea if they are telling the truth or not.

        1. Frank Bitterlich
          WTF?

          Re: Errm ...

          "And indeed you can, provided it's based on fact and not hearsay or lies."

          And so that the surgeon can check whether anything that one person wrote to another in private is true, he should be able to get all private messages the person in question ever wrote (hey, why limit that to Mumsnet? Why not subpoena their email provider too?)

          UK libel law is something I don't understand. Now you have to be able to prove everything you write, even in private. Absurd.

          1. foxyshadis

            Re: Errm ...

            "UK libel law is something I don't understand. Now you have to be able to prove everything you write, even in private. Absurd."

            Slander, the spreading of defaming stories in private, has been a tort in Common Law far longer than the UK has had colonies, and is much the same in the US. This isn't UK libel law, it's UK defamation law, encompassing both public and private statements.

            1. Adam 52 Silver badge

              Re: Errm ...

              "Slander, the spreading of defaming stories in private"

              That's no what Slander is. Try reading here:

              http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/slander

          2. Alan Mackenzie
            Boffin

            Re: Errm ...

            No, there is no such thing as "UK libel law". It's English libel law. Scottish libel law is quite different.

          3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Errm ...

            "

            UK libel law is something I don't understand. Now you have to be able to prove everything you write, even in private. Absurd.

            "

            Imagine a situation whereby someone sent a private e-mail to every employee of the company you work for saying that you provide drugs to schoolchildren in return for sex. Would you still consider that private e-mails should not be used as evidence in libel cases?

            1. Mark 65

              Re: Errm ...

              Think of the children

          4. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: Errm ...

            I'm quite sure that the surgeon wouldn't get _any_ private messages, but his lawyer would. And if that lawyer leaks anything out that isn't related to the case, he'll be in big shit.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    El'reg can we still post here as

    Anonymous Coward or will you reveal my.. oh never mind

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: El'reg can we still post here as

      Anonymous Coward or will you reveal my.. oh never mind

      The key to this is that you should remember that being anonymous does not equate to being unaccountable - the two have a degree of association but are not the same. Personally I am all for anonymity, but not so much for not being accountable.

      1. Number6

        Re: El'reg can we still post here as

        El Reg Knows Who You Are. Even if you've ticked the anonymous box.

  7. FlippingGerman

    Messages

    I understand (though I'm not sure I agree with) revealing the identities of the posters, but their private messages? That's not defamation, since it's private.

    I like to have my personal messages encrypted.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Messages

      "

      I understand (though I'm not sure I agree with) revealing the identities of the posters, but their private messages? That's not defamation, since it's private.

      "

      I've just sent some anonymous private e-mails to a couple of your co-workers telling them that you have been slagging them off behind their back and spitting in their coffee. Good you agree that that is not defamation and I thus you have no right to find out who I am.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @cynic_999

        In the event that you had posted something along those lines then the receipients would consider what they know about both of us and make their own minds up. Given that this is your second post bad mouthing me then I would suggest that what credibility you had is now gone and you would be out the door.

        This is very much the problem with applying libel law to the internet, simply because the internet forums are not a professional organisation with credibility and prestige such that people would believe them out of hand. Mumsnet is the informal discussion of posters who consider themselves mothers, not by definition professionals of any kind.

        I am presuming that the posters did not use their real names hence the legal action and so you have a couple of anonymous posters who said something that the good doctor didn't like. The chances are the posters are beyond the reach of the local courts and so by pushing for a legal gagging, the doctor is giving crediant to the posts and I would say doing more harm than good.

        Just looking at this forum I would say the majority want to side against the doctor, simply because of the heavy handed approach taken.

        I understand that this is said doctors professional reputation but all the same the statistics for the people he has helped should be enough to show who is at fault.

        Personally when I hear of internet gagging I immediately assume they have something to hide and are using the legal system to hide their guilt

        1. TVU

          Re: @cynic_999

          "Personally when I hear of internet gagging I immediately assume they have something to hide and are using the legal system to hide their guilt"

          ^ This. Not only that, it has the potential to set another dubious precedent for the rich and powerful to protect themselves from legitimate criticism and scrutiny just as super injunctions already do today.

          These days, the only really safe thing to do is quote something that's already in the public domain.

      2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Messages

        "I've just sent some anonymous private e-mails to a couple of your co-workers telling them that you have been slagging them off behind their back and spitting in their coffee."

        Since you've admitted guilt, there's no need to dive into your private emails.

        But no plaintiff shouldn't be entitled to every piece of private communication between the parties -- only that which is germane. Suppose, for example, one of them is suicidal and has been talking it over with the other. (Or that one of them has been having an affair. Or that the conversations contain any intimate details.)

        I would appeal the decision using the ECHR right to privacy. This is disproportionate.

      3. art guerrilla

        Re: Messages

        1. there is a qualitative and quantitative difference betw a PRIVATE chat betw two consenting parties WHO HAVE EVERY EXPECTATION THAT CONVERSATION WILL REMAIN PRIVATE FOREVER; and broadcasting a not-really-very-private-email-now-is-it to a bunch of people, apparently with malice aforethought...

        2. there are ANY number of PRIVATE matters they may discuss in those emails/chats which have nothing to do with the doctor, OR MAY be related ('oh, that scar where they took out my belly fat is more prominent than i thought...' blah blah blah), personal stuff which may not seem like a big deal, but is fucking personal...

        for example, i realize probably everyone knows i pick boogers (in the privacy of my bathroom), but i really don't want pictures or email descriptions cropping up for no good reason than someone else's nosiness... i would be mortified and violated, EVEN THOUGH it is only about stupid boogers...

        3. i don't care what kind of super-duper-excellent reputation der gut herr doktor has, is it possible he is meta-physically the world's greatest plastic surgeon in his specialty, AND he mucked up a few operations ? ? ? duh...

        4. lastly, the retarded notion that LAYPEOPLE MUST discuss any/all medical issues (heh, why stop there: NO discussion of legal issues unless 100% accurate; NO discussion of science unless you have the calcs nailed down 100% accurately, ad absurdum...) with 100% accuracy and total knowledge is preposterous on the face of it...

        FORGET about any actual malice or intent to defame a doctor, JUST NORMAL ignorance of most medical 'stuff' is enough to explain inaccurate and 'wrong' medical information laypeople relate to each other...

        this is crazy talk...

  8. Doc Ock

    Dr Sorensen !

    Wasn't that the evil dude who wiped out a sun and billions of lives just so he could have life eternal in the Ribbon ?

    Oh hang on it was Dr Soren, better get myself a lawyer.

    1. Spanker

      I thought he made malt loaves?

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Dr Sorenson...

      No, that was the evil surgeon who brought the evil Time Lord Morbius back from the dead.

      No.. Sorry. That was Dr. Solon.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about private messages *outside* Mumsnet ?

    How long before printed pages held in front of public webcams becomes a thing ?

    Good luck identifying the authors then ....

  10. Shaha Alam
    Trollface

    all websites should inject "in my opinion" in front of all user's posts and end them with "allegedly".

    fix'd.

  11. CheeseTriangles
    Happy

    Dr Jesper Sorensen

    -----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE-----

    Version: GnuPG v2.0.19 (MingW32)

    jA0ECQMC/pKj0BxFsKWu0oYBqN+KwkVBUJW4HuDLGmMgy1EZEt4zLeG39MEazJ87

    Iwvdl6iIJcSdBXe4RsK7MHzoYWM9OO1iX9XZeLOu9WV66jhJ3M5XopcWbNCyhkHH

    T0FL717QTnGNiaUi7Fgv046BLpX6vLSDJ2nBdF2w7GDGJM9Kp1Hq62ie/g+qjetf

    8L0ZdMJtkw==

    =FJ8x

    -----END PGP MESSAGE-----

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Terminator

      Re: Dr Jesper Sorensen

      Yikes! That's scandalous. I'm deeply shocked.

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Dr Jesper Sorensen

      "

      -----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE-----

      ...

      "

      At which point RIPA could be used to bang you up for 5 years unless you decode it ....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re:At which point RIPA could be used

        Only if you are in the UK.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dr Jesper Sorensen

        Public/Private key encryption. You might not actually be able to decode it, only the intended recipient(s) can, how often do you add yourself to the CC list in an email you're sending?

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: Dr Jesper Sorensen

      Baboons you say? Are you sure? I thought they were allergic to marmalade?

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Double standards

    I realise I'm about to completely reverse the current ratio of upvotes to downvotes on my ElReg handle but...

    If you only say in private what you are willing to say in public, then you don't need to worry about this. It's only people with more than one standard who have to worry.

    (Posted Nonymously, as indeed I always do unless I feel I have to protect the identity of third parties who might be identifiable in my posts.)

    Edit: And no, I'm not a human rights activist posting from some god-forsaken part of the world where anonymity might be life-preserving. Neither, so far as the article suggests, were these two.)

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: Double standards

      "(Posted Nonymously, as indeed I always do unless I feel I have to protect the identity of third parties who might be identifiable in my posts.)"

      Sorry, have not idea what you mean by this. The subtley is lost on me...can you explain?

      1. Shooter

        @ m0rt

        For words of this sort, the prefix "A" means "without; e.g., amoral means without morals, asexual means without sex, etc.

        Anonymous means without name (or without identity); removing the "a" indicates his name or identity is provided (although so far as I can tell there is no actual word as nonymous). OP means that he usually identifies his posts with his handle, except under specific circumstances.

        1. Named coward

          Re: @ m0rt

          The word you're looking for is onymous. The "n" is there because of the "o"

          1. m0rt Silver badge

            Re: @ m0rt

            Thank you both for your education and patience. I have learned something. Today is a good day!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Princess Consuela Bananahammock.

    Time to always use false names and addresses on forums and email accounts then. I'll be Princess Consuela Bananahammock please.

    1. Number6

      Re: Princess Consuela Bananahammock.

      If anyone chooses to be Number One then I'd like to meet you.

  14. tiggity Silver badge

    Implicit Support

    Mumsnet’s CEO Justine Roberts did not oppose the order – or support it

    Not opposing is impolicit support IMHO

    The English libel laws are a joke (in a bad way), a great way for the wealthy to shut up critics as costs of losing libel case can be eye watering), you would expect CEO of a site with comments by potentially vulnerable people (just guessing but if someone is moaning about quality of surgical treatments maybe they feel traumatized / disfigured, are depressed to an extent etc) to do everything possible to defend the site commentards

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