Government’s barmy and complex plan to tackle defamation on the web

The Ministry of Justice has just excelled itself with a daft plan to try and tackle libellous and abusive comments on websites.
A splendid blog on the Inforrm website by media lawyer Ashley Hurst from Olswang reveals that a so-called simple system to provide redress to force web operators to take down posts is anything but that.
As he himself states the ministry claimed it “designed to be as straightforward as possible for people to use” but there are in excess of 20 cross-references in a procedure spanning over four pages with 47 FAQs and 10 pages of guidance.”
Worse it looks as though it will do the opposite that it intends by encouraging more people to blog anonymously as people might have to get court orders to find out who is behind the post.
He points out “People blog and comment on websites anonymously for a reason: because they do not want to be identified. Why would an anonymous blogger suddenly identify himself without a court order because a website operator tells him that a legal complaint has been received? There is absolutely no incentive, especially for a whistleblower, someone intent on causing damage, or someone who cannot afford to be sued, to come forward and identify themself voluntarily as a potential defendant.”
There is also a 48 hour fast track application to get someone’s post down – but make one mistake in the form and web operator can ignore. I can’t imagine WordPress, based in the US with a tradition of free speech, being over impressed by these new UK regulations.
For those who want to study it further he supplies a flow diagram, which almost rates in complexity ( but not quite) with Andrew Lansley’s re-organisation of the NHS.
In my view the planned regulations look hardly worth the paper they are written on. They seem a waste of cyberspace.

4 thoughts on “Government’s barmy and complex plan to tackle defamation on the web

  1. I don’t know what this means. But if you’ve got something to say and it’s true, say it. If it’s criminal, report it to the police. I’m all for bloggers and people giving comments using their real names – like David and me and how it used to be in letters to the editor. Makes life simple and accountable. No more smoke and mirrors – please.


    • Personally I am in favour of anonymity for those that wish to be so providing they are not using it as stated for criminal purposes. Legislation in this country is worthless anyway, look at how the Leveson press inquiry was watered down at the behest of the rich.


      • I think anonymity is fine for general comments – particular if people have employers watching ever move. It’s just when people feed the rumour mill gratuitously that I object – or try and smear others, Remember – the pen is mightier than the sword these days.
        But I agree that much legislation is poorly conveived and ill-used, and please don’t get me going about the courts…Leveson? Tax the poor in favour of penniless celebs!


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