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Name And Shame Websites: Free Speech or Defamation?

What is a Name and Shame website?

Name and Shame websites are websites that post evidence of and commentary on actions performed by individuals, with the intent of shaming those individuals and others out of future performance.

In the United States, websites such as post information about individuals with the intent of keeping those individuals from engaging in further actions. Not so much news as it is simply reporting on the misdeeds of others, Name and Shame websites have received scrutiny from those ‘shamed’ on their websites, and from lawmakers. A controversy has emerged where some feel ‘Name and Shame’ websites violate libel laws mean to protect individuals’ personal integrity, while others feel that Name and Shame websites contribute to the vibrant free speech so valuable in the contemporary world.

What did the Dubai based ‘Name and Shame’ website seek to do?

At the forefront of the debate about whether or not governments should allow ‘Name and Shame’ websites to post embarrassing and reputation-crippling information about individuals is a situation emerging out of Dubai. Specifically, a British man living in Dubai recently launched a campaign to ‘Name and Shame’ bad drivers and restaurants that perform poorly. The man claims his intention in launching the campaign was to hold people accountable for their actions through publicly airing his perception of their improper actions.

In an attempt to achieve this goal, the ‘Name and Shame’ man would log his DubaiNameShame website, and post incriminating photographs and analysis thereupon. The Dubai based web-user would then update a Twitter account with information about those posted on the ‘Name and Shame’ website. For example, the DubaiNameShame man could post a picture online of an individual driving poorly, and then other internet users could recognize, identify and, perhaps, ostracize that individual for his/her poor driving.

What happened after the ‘Name and Shame’ website posted information about individuals

Though the British man, whose identity remains unconbusinessed, intended that his campaign make Dubai a safer and generally better city to live in, UAE officials might disagree. After having posted many pictures and comments online with the intent of naming and shaming those individuals out of further performance, many complained that the website was going too far. Specifically, some argued that the website violated UAE libel laws.

Fearing legal action, the British man removed all postings from his internet site, and vowed to discontinue posting information that might violate UAE law. The man, however, did promise to continue publishing and brining attention to improper behavior in accordance with UAE libel law. The controversy in its entirety might only directly affect the UAE, but lawmaking bodies and individuals have paid keen attention to the situations, wondering the ramifications it will have for their respective nations and internet communications throughout world in general.

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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