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'It was absolutely available': defamation trial hears column online for years

Last Updated Nov 27, 2015 at 6:40 pm EDT

CALGARY – A forensic computer expert says an article at the heart of a defamation lawsuit filed by former television reporter Arthur Kent was readily accessible for years after it was originally published.

Kevin Ripa testified Friday that all it took was a simple check on Google to find the 2008 column by Don Martin.

Kent, who became known as the Scud Stud for his live reports for NBC during the Gulf War, is suing Martin, Postmedia and the National Post over the column.

Headlined “‘Scud Stud’ A ‘Dud’ On The Election Trail,” it criticized Kent as an ego-driven, out-of-control candidate.

Ripa told court the article was available for nearly five years on several sites and traced back to the National Post website.

“It was absolutely available on the Internet,” Ripa said. “It wasn’t being called from any mystical, magical place other than where any other article would be called from that would be visible today.”

He said the websites carrying the Martin column seemed to be current, with up-to-date advertising and links to current stories.

Ripa said a test done on the National Post site found it was affiliated with 232 websites and a random check of various newspaper sites, including the Calgary Herald, Vancouver Province and Windsor Star showed they all were linked to the same IP address.

“One computer has all of the websites in it. Although they look different they’re accessing the same story repository.”

Ripa said the story repository existed at the National Post and fixing the problem would be as simple as checking a box on the content management system to say it would not be visible.

Kent described it as a “Lazarus article” — a reference to the Biblical figure who Jesus brought back to life — in testimony Thursday.

He said he was approached by a number of Alberta political parties about running provincially again and was also courted by the federal NDP but declined because he worried the continued presence of the article would make it difficult to get financing and volunteers.

Google usually bumps up the most current or relevant articles in a search, Ripa said, adding most people don’t go past the first page and if the Martin article was on page 3 or 4 it wouldn’t see much traffic.

“Let’s say Mr. Kent decided to run for office again as one example. Now Google is going to try and look for articles of relevance that support,” Ripa said.

“If he decides to run for office again, other web pages that refer to his involvement with politics are going to be brought up higher than his time in Kuwait.”

In cross-examination Postmedia lawyer Brent Mescall asked Ripa if it was possible to find the article if an individual didn’t have the link.

“This was not found on the main page of the Ottawa Citizen if you simply clicked the news tab?” Mescall asked.

“No,” replied Ripa, but he reminded the court that all he had to do was use Google to find the article.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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