Our client, a legal professional, had been libelled on a website. Although the High Court had ordered the libel removed, the person suspected of running the site claimed that he did not have any control over it. The site was registered under false credentials in Eastern European countries which made it impossible to trace directly.
How to trace the website to its true owner so that the libel could quickly be removed.
• Because there was no formal proof of ownership of the website, our client was permitted to serve legal documents by email to an email address included in the site’s false registration details. It occurred to us that the true owner of the libellous site would need to have access to the email address to deal with maintenance and administrative issues on the site.
• A 'web-beacon' was placed in an email sent to the address. This software technique forced the computer from which the email was read to briefly connect to a web-server controlled by us. This brief connection allowed us to identify the computer from which the website was run.
• Analysis of the 'web-beacon' showed that the website was run from an ISP in Ireland.
• A court order was quickly obtained requiring the ISP to disclose who had accessed the email address in question. The ISP identified an individual known to be a confederate of the person our client believed to run the site.
• Our findings convinced the court to force the individual now known to be responsible for the libel to remove it under immediate threat of imprisonment for contempt of a court order.
• Out client is considering libel proceedings against the person responsible for the site.
Web-beacon tracing is of some use in identifying whether or not, and by whom, an email is read. It is used by many companies to determine the effectiveness of their email marketing programmes. However it is not the only way of tracing people over the Internet. Metadata analysis of messages and attachments can often reveal the origin on anonymous or offensive emails.
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