Image by Fati.m.a Maria via FlickrIt was inevitable that we'd see such a case one day. Dubai's Misdemeanours Court yesterday heard the case of a Syrian who had posted photographs tagged with 'libellous comments' on his FaceBook page, according to Gulf News today.
The National, incidentally, didn't seem to get the story - there's a pattern emerging here where GN is stronger on the Dubai-led official stuff and The National on the Abu Dhabi/Federal beat.
No judgement has yet been passed in the case, although the defendent did say, according to GN, "I'm guilty and I did defame him because he provoked me." This could well avoid any wrinkles in the case that would test the ability of the judiciary to sit in judgement of complex cases involving online behaviours and technologies - I hope it doesn't stop the judge from exploring the legal issues the case opens up.
However, the critically important precedent in this is that the case was brought to court at all. In fact, Dubai Police's E-Crime section received a complaint from the allegedly defamed party and presumably brought the case.
The judge's summing up on this one has the potential to be important for many of us - we have already seen both cases and judgements in the UK and US that start to set precedents for how online media are being treated with regard to issues such as anonymity (the British High Court, for instance, judging that blogging is 'an activity carried out in public' and therefore a blogger does not have a right to have his or her anonymity preserved or protected) and online libel (we have now seen cases involving FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter).
The GN story is worth a read, BTW - the 'libel' that GN reports seems pretty mild as they go and appears to refer to a dispute that is itself ongoing in Dubai courts between the plaintiffs, according to the defendant and so wouldn't necessarily appear to be as clear-cut as the defendant's 'mea culpa' statement seems to make it.