New year and a new defence for bloggers over defamatory comments

The law offering a new defence and a remedy for bloggers besieged by defamatory comments from unknown sources will come into force on New Years Day 2014.
The regulations highlighted in a previous blog on this site have now been approved by both Houses of Parliament and will form the first move under the Defamation Act affecting websites.
The law will also set out a procedure on how complaints should be handled and also put an onus on the person complaining to explain what grounds they have for a complaint.
The changes on the law are outlined pretty comprehensively on the Inforrm blog which also includes a comment from a sceptical blogger about how useful they will be.
The new law was welcomed in the Lords. In a debate Lord Lester waxed lyrically about them. He said ” my noble friend Lord McNally [the Lib Dem government minister] is like Moses in the splendid portrait, bringing down the tables of the law to the Israelites, in seeking the approval of the House to the regulations what he is doing is important not only in this country but throughout Europe and in the wider world.”
Other peers admitted they knew nothing. Labour’s Lord Beecham said “when it comes to the world of computers, information technology and social media, I confess to being an utter novice. At risk of being labelled a Marxist by the right-wing press or Conservative Central Office, I recall some words of Marx—Groucho, I hasten to add, and not Karl. In one of his films, which might have been “A Night at the Opera” but I would not swear to that, he is seen poring over a map and declares that a child of five could understand the map. He continues: “Bring me a child of five”. I am tempted to make the same request when confronted by matters of the kind encompassed by these regulations.”
At least one peer was honest!

3 thoughts on “New year and a new defence for bloggers over defamatory comments

  1. Trying to think of a suitably defamatory comment to leave to test the new system, but feel short of inspiration.

    Trust a Libdem peer, however, to choose the wrong Groucho quote: maybe a more appropriate observation, in this context, might be – “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Or was that Karl?

    How are we supposed to apply the new ruling to anonymous commenters? Some of my more interesting visitors hide behind a veil of modesty, which is possible on blogger, if not wordpress. One would hate to deter such shy creatures, but if the law obliges us to give defamed subjects the right to contact them, this would be something of a problem.

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    • it is only a defence if the blogger wishes to use it. Luckily they are not obliged to give the email address of the anonymous person to the complainant – they can contact them and ask if they want their email address to be given to the complainant – and they could refuse.
      Also the person who was going to go to court would need to be very well off as it is now -thanks to this government raising court fees- a minimum of £1500 to take out a writ for libel for unlimited damages plus the cost of paying lawyers to serve it. Not for the faint hearted and not much good if the person doesn’t have assets.

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