The editors of online newspapers are not responsible for defamatory comments posted by their readers.
This is what has recently been established by the Italian Supreme Court when asked to rule on the legality of the conviction by the Court of Appeal of Bologna against Daniela Hamaui, the former editor of the web version of the Italian magazine L’Espresso.
The inferior Court judges had pronounced a verdict of guilty on the basis of the requirements of Art. 57 of the Italian Criminal Code regarding offences committed in the periodical press, which punishes an editor or deputy editor who “fails to exercise the necessary control to prevent crimes being committed by the publication of contents in the magazine he edits.”
However, as they were aware of the particular nature of online editions, the Bologna Appeal Court judges had not charged the editor of Espresso with non compliance of content control, but with the failure to remove the defamatory comment.
Thus, Daniela Hamaui’s defending counsel argued before the Supreme Court that the inferior Court ruling had misinterpreted the norm, which in fact punishes the failure to prevent publication but not the failure to implement post-publication controls.
In ruling no. 44126 of the Fifth Criminal Division, the Supreme Court upheld the defendant’s appeal observing the structural difference between the printed and electronic press and underlining that it was impossible for the magazine’s editor to prevent the publication of defamatory comments, which makes it evident that “the norm contained in art. 57, of the Criminal code was not designed for these situations which would force a newspaper editor to work in impossible conditions and would punish him automatically and objectively giving him no opportunity to conduct himself lawfully.”