Until earlier this week I had never heard of either Craig Murray or Alisher Usmanov.
Like most bloggers I now know that Mr Murray is the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and that Mr Usmanov is an Uzbek millionaire, with an interest in Arsenal Football Club, who has forced a blog host to shut down because of comments made on Mr Murray's blog claiming that Usmanov is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist.
Mr Usmanov, on the other hand, whilst accepting that he was imprisoned for various "crimes" in the former USSR, claims that the charges were false and that his imprisonment was politically motivated.
As I had never heard of either man earlier than this week, I can't comment on the validity of either the accusation or the defence. However, the issue does raise a number of important points about blogging and libel.
As a blogger I have sympathy with other bloggers who have been censored, especially those, such as Boris Johnson, who have been caught in the crossfire. If, on the other hand, Mr Usmanov is innocent of the accusations made against him by Murray then I can fully understand his anger and the reason for his actions.
Most bloggers have taken the side of Mr Murray, for understandable reasons. The fact that a billionaire can use his wealth and power to hammer a blog and a blog host is, without doubt, a blow against freedom of speech. But, Craig Murray has also abused the blogosphere. Murray has made no secret of the fact that he wants Usmanov to sue him, and has used his blog to goad Usmanov into doing so. Because a blog host, as the publisher of libellous material, can be implicated in any libel case Mr Murray was wrong to drag his host into his personal campaign against Usmanov and the Uzbek government and was wrong to put other bloggers sites at risk by doing so.
The easy answer to the problem might be to make web hosts immune from prosecution in such cases and let the likes of Craig Murray and Alisher Usmanov fight their own battles without being able to drag an "innocent" third party into their fight.
That might be the answer where those involved are two very influential people, but what happens when the parties involved live lower down the food chain?
What happens if I post a blog making an unfounded accusations that a neighbour is a paedophile, but that neighbour couldn't afford to sue me and / or I'm not worth suing? My host has to be responsible for making sure that I can't get away with it. My neighbour must have a means of redress that doesn't involve the time, costs and hassle of civil legal action.
On the other hand how can a line be drawn between being allowed to say that a prime minister or president is an useless tosser who isn't fit to hold his / her position and saying something similar about the holder of any other post, a headmaster or a shop assistant for example? And if an influential billionaire really is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist how do we protect the right of an individual to expose him for what he is?