Sharman escalates p2pnet attack

I am a contributor on p2pnet, so I have been watching the lawsuit against p2pnet for alleged defamation very closely. Since there are now more details being made public on the p2pnet site itself, I wanted to post a BLOG article about it.

Jon says:

Because this isn't about Sharman suing p2pnet . It's about a multi-million-dollar company using its weight to try to stop a small news site from reporting something the company didn't want reported - shades of Steve Jobs and Apple. And it therefore has hugely important implications for the blogosphere, and for the millions of people who've chosen the Net as their principal means of talking to each other.

At issue are some comments that were made in reply to the blog postings. Jon isn't the author of them, but since he is the webmaster they seem to be intent on making him responsible for them. Unlike this site which requires that people log in with a known email address, p2pnet allows anonymous postings.

I have a hard time understanding why Sharman would want to draw attention to anything that was said by these anonymous postings. Nobody would consider such postings as credible reporting, but more like the bantering that might happen at a local pub of coffee house. Launching a lawsuit only makes people wonder if there was truth in what was said.

At their request Jon has already removed the articles in question, so I don't know exactly what was said. If Sharman was smart they would have left it at that, but I am now going to be interested to see what the court transcripts say as far as the allegedly defaming statements -- and whether they turn out to be true.

Legal questions: Should the ISP or Webmaster be considered responsible for postings made to a website? Who is responsible when a posting is anonymous? If a posting is anonymous, would a reasonable person consider it credible and thus potentially defamatory? If a statement is found to be false, why is anything more involved than a retraction required?