Lots of questions lately about the responsibility for User Generated Content: to moderate or not; when does one take down; what obligations and responsibility does the publisher have?
At an AIMIA conference yesterday on Social Networking and User Generated Content, Matthew Hall from Swaab Attorney aptly summed up the situation as 'analogue legislation trying to regulate digital media'. Yes, it's a mine field.
There is a view that the best way to treat UGC (comments, reviews, responses etc) is to take a stance of either ALL care (and thus all responsibility) or no care and no responsibility. Simplistically - one either vets, edits, moderates and reviews everything which is published and thus has full responsibility for accuracy, libel, spelling, the lot; or else you don't touch it and let the public decide.
Of course, providing 'take down' or 'mark as inappropriate' buttons can help in having the public act as moderators of the data. It also helps to let threads develop - so that comments about comments can be made - effectively allowing a right of reply.
So will we ever have and Australian version of 'Yelp'? Until the right of free speech (or free spray, however you want to see this) is enshrined in some Bill of Rights - it is unlikely. The different libel and privacy laws in different countries lead to different outcomes based on the regulation.
And, in three years time, when the law has caught up with UGC - we'll all be troubled by some other aspect the legislators are yet to get their heads around.