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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Parent website settles libel case
Gina Ford
Gina Ford has received an apology from the Mumsnet website
A parenting website is to pay compensation to baby expert Gina Ford after allegedly insulting comments about her appeared online.

Ms Ford launched a libel case against Mumsnet.com last year after messages were posted about her by site users on its discussion boards.

One such comment is said to have compared her to a terrorist.

The case now has been settled out of court, with Mumsnet.com paying an undisclosed figure.

The Mumsnet.com parenting website was set up in 2000 by three women. It is now visited by up to 250,000 mothers every month.

A statement on the site said: "Mumsnet apologises to Gina Ford for the comments made about her by some Mumsnet users, and has made a contribution to Gina Ford's legal costs.

"Mumsnet will no longer bar discussion of Ms Ford's books and methods, but will not tolerate personal attacks on her.

Gina Ford has never tried to stifle debate or discussion about her methods
Tony Jaffa, solicitor

"Mumsnet urges all its members to remain civil and fair towards Gina Ford and indeed any other individual in line with the site's abuse policy."

The website had banned all online discussion of Ms Ford and her techniques for raising children while the legal case was taking place.

Ms Ford, who lives in Scotland, is the author of the book Contented Little Babies.

Monitoring difficulties

Co-founder Justine Roberts said no-one at the website had thought comments posted on its discussion boards comparing Ms Ford to a terrorist in the Middle East "could possibly be taken seriously".

She added that it was difficult to monitor all the website's posts as they could number up to 70,000 per day.

Mark Stephens, lawyer for Mumsnet.com, said: "There is serious concern about this particular area that internet service providers and posts like Mumsnet can be held liable for the words that are published on them."

"People can comment and give their own views and reasonable readers can make up their own minds."

Ms Ford's solicitor, Tony Jaffa, issued a statement which said her legal action had not been an attempt to stifle debate about her methods.

It said: "Contrary to statements which have appeared in some sections of the press, Gina Ford never, ever, threatened to take legal action against any individual member of Mumsnet.

"Accordingly, the assertion that Mumsnet settled Gina Ford's claim 'to protect its individual members from legal action' is incorrect.

"Those members never faced litigation from my client, so there was never any need for her claim to be settled to 'protect' them.

"Gina Ford has never tried to stifle debate or discussion about her methods.

"The High Court claim was based entirely on the personal attacks to which she had been subjected over a lengthy period of time."

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