Plans to tackle internet trolling could have a “chilling effect” on online freedom of expression, a committee of MPs and peers has said.
So, what, precisely, do they want to do about trolls – bearing in mind, that more often than not, it isn’t trolling anyway.
Under the bill, a statement is regarded as defamatory if it “has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation” of a person or a company, but any claim for damages will fail if it can be shown, for example, that the defamatory statement is “substantially true”.
On the face of it, that isn’t so radically different to now, is it? That’s what the laws of libel do. Oh, wait…
However, complainants would not have to declare whether any such defence applied in their case.
What the flying fuckitty fuck? if you have been libelled, then the very least that you should be expected to do is to provide some evidence that the remarks are actually harmful, are actually untrue and damaging. Otherwise, it ain’t libellous, it’s common abuse or fair comment.
The committee’s report explained: “We think there is a real risk that website operators will be forced to arbitrate on whether something is defamatory or lawful, and will too readily make decisions on commercial grounds to remove allegedly defamatory material rather than engage with the process.”
The bill therefore “risks removing material from the internet, which, although it may be defamatory, may be lawful if a relevant defence applies”, the report added.
Quite so. We run this place and allow pretty much anything comment wise. I’ve only deleted those that breach our policy on ad hominem attacks on contributors and other commetors. However, I have neither the time nor inclination to trawl through all of the comments looking for something that might get us into trouble – I am far too busy out in the real world for that and so are my fellow admins. We rely on a degree of trust, therefore. This bill would shift the balance of that.
So, we wait and see how the government reacts to the committee’s criticisms. I can’t say that I am over hopeful – governments across the board are looking at how they control this new wild west. That it already controls itself and is outside their shpere of influence is a running sore for them and they will do all that they can to exert control.