In mid-July of this year, CivilMedia and the Göbölyös Soma Foundation held a workshop discussion. The two main topics were the right to publish images of the faces of police officers and how to deal with comments in online media. Attorney for CivilMedia József Kárpáti began his presentation by explaining that as comments do not qualify as “media products”, the Media Law does not apply to them and the Media Authority cannot fine media service providers because of them. He added that although there is no liability under administrative law, they may give rise to liability under civil law. After examining the two Hungarian rulings, he reached the conclusion that media service providers are in all events responsible for moderated content, or for content over which they have any measure of editorial control (e.g. the content is published in a blog on their website, or if they process or respond to the comments). Thus, objective liability ceases and even subjective liability could cease as well – the party launching the proceedings also has a good chance of being able to successfully claim for damages. No one has yet taken unmoderated content to court, but it can be deduced that the courts would take an approach similar to the one they have taken with moderated content.
Bodolai László, legal counsel for Hungarian online news portal Index, gave the next presentation, stating that the 2001 Act on e-commerce services has been used by courts on several occasions with regards to comments on articles or blogs. He emphasized
that the case law shows that a media service provider can only be held responsible if it does not remove the offending comment within a reasonable period of time. It remains unclear who has the right to request the deletion of content – whether the victim may do so or only the court.
In response to questions posed by journalists, he said that a complainant could go straight to the court without first requesting the deletion of the imputed content. In this case, the operator has to explain before the court what it has done or not done in order
to avoid the infringement. Who is responsible for whom? The editor-in-chief is of course in charge of content, while (in most civil actions) it is generally the publisher who appears before the judge and who bears liability for any damages. When investigating
criminal liability, it is important to know that editors cannot normally disclose personal data and IP addresses, but if they are ordered to do so by a prosecutor, they have the obligation to react accordingly. Thus in most cases even anonymous commenters can be identified.