Gay news site Pink News may be the subject of legal action over its part in the controversy currently surrounding footballer Ashley Cole.

Mr Cole is suing the News of the World and the Sun over stories published last month about a gay orgy. The footballer was not directly named, but a heavily pixellated photograph of two men accompanied the news items.

Pink News then published an unedited version of a picture on its site showing Ashley Cole with DJ Masterstepz, triggering a wave of internet gossip about the England and Arsenal footballer.

Pink News were told this week that the News of the World may seek to recover money from the site under the Civil Liability Contribution Act 1978 if the paper is successfully sued by Mr Cole.

Defending the publication of the photograph, Pink News editor Ben Cohen said the site had handled the story in a responsible manner.

"At no point did we claim that Mr Cole was gay," he said. "All that did was to publish what it believed (and subsequently emerged) to be the original version of a photograph edited by the News of the World."

• Solicitors for Mr Cole have set up an online survey to assess the impact of the News of the World story. Respondents are asked where they heard about the story, and if they used message boards or chat rooms to discuss it.

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