The website manager, even if he is not a professional, is responsible for the comments posted by readers in his page, including those signed, and thus he can be sued for defamation. This is what has been determined for the first time in a decision published few days ago by the Supreme Court.
The case involves Carlo Tavecchio, president of the FIGC (Italian Football Federation), who has been vilified by a comment published in 2009 on a website, “Agenziacalcio.it”, which, due to this matter, has been obscured. The author of the comment called Mr. Tavecchio as a “emeritus scoundrel” and a “convicted felon”, attaching the relevant criminal record.
At first instance, the operator was acquitted, then convicted on appeal and now the Supreme Court confirmes: he will have to pay to Mr. Tavecchio 6.000 euro, for conspiring in defamation.
According to the Court, there is a complicity by the website’s manager because he should have known it, as its author had sent him an e-mail containing that record. The defendant, instead, claims that he became aware of the libelous comment once the police notified him the seizure.
This ruling surprises because jurisprudence appeared to follow another direction: the European Court of Justice considers managers not responsible even for anonymous comments.
Last November Msssimiliano Tonelli, founder and manager of “Cartellopoli”, a website concerning Rome's decay, was cleared. In the first degree, the man was sentenced to nine months of prison for instigation to crime with regard to some anonymous comments.
The previous interpretation, which, in 2014, has led to the conviction of the manager of Nuovocadore.it, seemed dropped.
Now, for the first time, the Court goes deeper and adopts a different point of view. Website mangers are all warned. Actually not only them, but all users. Whereas anyone can manage a website or another virtual space, with their (sometimes dangerous) own comments.