UK Trolls May See Legal Response To Defamation

The responsibility of users attacking users and authors in comments may be shifting from the website to the author of a comment. A recently introduced Defamation Bill discussed by the UK parliament suggests that websites would not be responsible for the postings of its users anymore, as long as they are willing to reveal a user's identity. The move is largely seen as a way to contain Internet trolling in which users tend to attack other users in a defamatory way.

There is no indication that a similar bill could succeed in the U.S. given the argument that the Defamation Bill may be violating the right of free speech, even if the free speech of some is harming others.

"Already there have been quite a lot of prosecutions for trolling but we actually think the public are entitled to proper protection against it," justice secretary Ken Clarke said in a statement. Clarke believes that a new defamation law could "strengthen freedom of expression by ensuring that material was not taken down from the internet without the author being given an opportunity to defend it", according to a FT article.

Of course, one could easily argue that online defamation should be held to the same standards as defamation in the real world, which would give Clarke's bill substantial grounds to succeed. Common sense suggests to treat others with respect and if you don't, there will be consequences to go along with it. If you engage in defamation in the real world, there may be legal consequences. Soon, there could be consequences online as well.

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  • raringcoder
    Wonder if this is off the back of that BBC Panorama programme. Some of the people they found deserve a good slap.
  • flaminggerbil
    As long as this is only used to counter really severe cases of online idiocy like the sub-humans from the documentary, I'd hate to see us get to the stage of having 'no win no fee, sue your online troll' services..
  • contrasia
    It's one thing to control what we say in society, where words could result in physical harm and conflict, but to prevent the total freedom of speech where such consequences doesn't exist is plain silly. If anything, it's used as a vent for all the anger and hate we build up that we have to hold when we have a crap day in real life.