The European Court of Human Rights, in Defli AS v Estonia, has upheld unanimously a finding of liability against an Internet news portal regarding offensive comments that were posted online by one of its readers. The Court held that making Defli AS liable for the comments was a justified and proportionate interference with its right to freedom of expression and thta there was no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression).
The facts of the case date back to 2006, when Delfi AS, one of Estonia’s largest internet news sites published an article relating to a ferry company and its decision to change some of its routes to certain islands. This change subsequently damaged ice roads considered to be a cheaper alternative to the ferry services. This led to an outcry of abusive and potentially defamatory online comments about the owner of the ferry company underneath the article.