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Man trolls lawyer on Web, lawyer sues (guess who wins)

Technically Incorrect: A British man posts a scurrilous and bogus review on Google about an American lawyer, for no apparent reason. He is found guilty of libel.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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It is not wise to post scurrilous things against this man online. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's a quaint belief that the Web is such a bastion of freedom that you can say what you like about anyone you like and even get a like for it.

There are, though, certain limits.

This was discovered by a British man called Jason "Jay" Page this week. He found himself in court having to defend himself against accusations that he'd called Colorado lawyer Timothy Bussey a "scumbag." He was also accused of saying that Bussey's law firm, imaginatively named the Bussey Law Firm, lost 80 percent of its cases.

Worse, Page even suggested Bussey had paid for online reviews that praised his talents.

These alleged revelations were posted to Bussey's Google Maps profile. Naturally, they were anonymous. Equally naturally, Bussey wondered who on earth was trying to wreck his business.

So, as The Telegraph reports, he subpoenaed Google in order to discover where these posts had originated. He must have been slightly surprised to discover that the source had been a British man in his 20s who still lives with his parents.

Page's defense, astonishingly, was that his Google account must have been hacked. He alleged that, as he was a moderator on Reddit, someone might have taken offense at something he'd done. However, a British judge decided that there was an "overwhelming probability" that he was responsible.

The judge believed that Google's sophisticated password protection and security meant that it was highly unlikely someone had used Page's account for their own ends.

Page was found guilty of libel and fined 50,000 British pounds (around $75,000), as well as having to pay Bussey's costs.

I have contacted Bussey to ask how much the whole case had cost him and how much business he thought he'd lost because of the postings. I will update, should I hear.

There is no known connection between Page and Bussey. The judge therefore concluded that Page may have been paid by someone else to write and post the negative comments.

Perhaps Page thought he'd never be discovered. Perhaps he thought Google wouldn't give up his identity, even if Bussey took legal proceedings.

Perhaps, though, he might also have considered that writing nasty things about a lawyer might have a nasty blowback.

A troll's life isn't always a happy one.