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English university fights Californian blog company to reveal critics

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The University of Salford is reportedly trying to press blog platform Wordpress, and its parent company Automatic Inc, based in San Francisco, California to reveal the personal details of contributors to a blog called .

Material posted on the blog criticised senior management at the university -- including Vice-Chancellors Martin Hall and Michael Harloe, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Adrian Graves -- and is now the subject of a libel case against a former lecturer and PhD student at Salford called Gary Duke, who the university believe is connected to the website.

The university sacked Mr Duke last year after he was linked to a spoof newsletter criticising management for implementing over 100 job cuts at the university. He, in turn, is now taking the university to an employment tribunal next March for unfair dismissal.

In order to prove Duke is linked to , Salford have commenced legal action at Manchester County Court for a 'Letter of Request' which, if granted, will then be presented to the California Superior Court in San Francisco asking it to force WordPress to reveal the identity, address, phone number, e-mail and IP address not only of the authors of the blog but also everybody who has contributed to it or posted comments on it.

"The University has commenced proceedings against me for libel" said Duke. "They have accused me of being linked with a website called The Rat Catchers of the Sewer. My position is that I will vigorously defend any allegations against me made by the University. I believe the action is purely legal bullying in the run up to my employment tribunal next March."

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