Feeds

back to article Libel reform vows to slay anonymous trolls

A single complaint about an anonymous article or posting online could be enough to legally force a website to take it down – if new Parliamentary proposals on defamation get passed into law. Measures against online anonymity are a key part of proposals published today in a committee report that will be debated when Parliament …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Anonymous Coward

Better get my last bit of free speech used up then!

Justin Bieber is an untalented pillock and he smells funny too!

Bloody country, last one to leave, turn the lights out please.

13
2
Anonymous Coward

Justin Beiber's male?

Yeah had to get that out of the way...

I'm not quite sure I see the logic of this new proposal. They want to deal with libel tourism by... making it even easier to use this country's libel laws against everyone. Yeah, that'll work! I suppose they just see the "tourism" bit and think it means lots of money which, in a way, I suppose they're right. After all, those rich arabs suing americans for saying they don't think Islam is all sweetness and light probably do spend a lot of their lucre here while they're in court.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

If it's defamation, then it should be removed

This ain't rocket science. No one should be allowed to post defamation.

1
7
Meh

I do agree...but...

...what if the "defamation" is later to be found as fact?

What happens then? Do I get to sue the person/entity that was allegedly defamed?

Do I get an apology? Looks like more work for the Barristers ahead!

5
0
Silver badge

Defamation is in the eye of the beholder. Or would you rather give people the power to have every post critical of, say, Orlowski removed from this site because it was "defamation"? Because that's what they're proposing, in essence: the ability to have posts removed simply because someone has complained, without recourse to courts or any form of defence.

The ability to speak freely and anonymously is one of the cornerstones of western democracy. It allows us to hold our "masters" to account by providing a means to disseminate information that they don't want us to see. Given that much of that information could and has ben declared defamatory in one way or another, it's arguable that people *must* be allowed to post defamation if democratic government is to function. The alternative would cripple our ability to hold the state to account; we already face the reality of people declaring the truth to be libel in this country. This proposal would allow them to not even bother having to go to court to do it.

13
0
Bronze badge
Pirate

"No one should be allowed to post defamation."

Of course not, but under this regime, I can have almost any post removed from El Reg by saying that it defames me. According to this, there is no defence at that stage, to say that the item is not defamation.

In other words: "I am a rocket scientist, and your post defames me. Please remove it."

1
0
Silver badge
Holmes

@AudiGuy

"what if the "defamation" is later to be found as fact? What happens then? Do I get to sue the person/entity that was allegedly defamed? Do I get an apology?"

No, because you're anonymous remember... :-) You might get an apology published, and have to sit quietly triumphant knowing you were right but can't tell anyone about it...

1
0
Silver badge
Trollface

@Graham Dawson

'would you rather give people the power to have every post critical of, say, Orlowski removed from this site because it was "defamation"?'

Ah, but they never even get published in the first place if Andrew sees them first...!

(Bet this one won't either...)

2
1
Big Brother

Re: If it's defamation, then it should be removed

Phenomenons such as hate speech, libel and defamation are simply ugly sides of free speech which we unfortunately have to tolerate if we want to preserve free speech as such.

The proposed legislation will simply make an effective tool for silencing opponents. Disagree with another part in the discussion? Simple accuse them of libel, slander or trolling, have their words removed. I have seen this in the past, not only on the Internet.

Daniel

5
0
Trollface

Can I still say that "Tom Cruz" is probably in the closet? You know, the one from "Mission Improbable".

Don't even get me started about miss "You bet'cha" from that upper U.S. state.

See, easy peezy. I defamed no one.

The law will work just great. /sarcasm

0
0
Anonymous Coward

I am Spartacus

Gosh, el Reg is going to be boring if we know who's posting !

Posting anonymously because I bloody well can for the time being.

5
0
Bronze badge
Unhappy

but they have your info

So even if you post as "anonymous", el Reg has your info and the post can be tracked back to you. Your only save bet is via off-shore and hope you don't ever have to travel to numpty-land.

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Offshore servers ?

So what if an anonymous comment appears out of the UKs jurisdiction ?

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Then the whole shebang will be declared illegal and the government will use the precedent from recent high court cases to get BT to add the domain to their kiddyporn list. Job done.

It would be funny if it weren't so fucking tragic.

10
0
Silver badge

Internet not British

They do know that the Internet isn't British, right? And Youtube will tell them to feck off?

4
0
Gold badge

People who own servers that are within UK jurisdiction will be liable under UK law for the statements those servers publish to UK clients, unless the remarks are published in the name of someone else who is liable under UK law.

The principle is "if you aren't willing to put your name to it, don't bother saying it".

If you *are* willing to take legal responsibility, but don't want non-legal entities (such as nosey employers) to associate the remark with you, create a second account. In the UK it is perfectly legal to have multiple identities as long as the intention is not fraudulent.

That leaves sites with the problem of determining which of their users are subject to UK law and therefore *able* to assume legal liability for their remarks. Assuming that this problem can be solved...

It all seems reasonable to me, and the likely consequences are an *increase* in free speech because sites (like this one) will be less censorious of comments. (I'm sure El Reg moderates primarily because it is afraid of the legal consequences of negligence rather than a desire to inspect every half-baked utterance that is submitted to the site.)

0
1
WTF?

I hate to break this to you, but, despite all suggestions to the contrary, the Internet doesn't actually exist in a magical parallel universe, entirely isolated from reality. It's just a bunch of physical computer networks connected to each other by wires and other media. *Physical* connections form the basis of the internet and the World Wide Web that sits on top of it, providing its most popular user interface.

The bits of that physical infrastructure that are in the UK really *are* subject to UK laws. So, if your website is served from a UK-based server, it is subject to the UK's legal system.

The US also seems to believe that, it a service can be accessed from within the US, US laws also apply to it. The UK's government is heavily influenced by US policies, and this particular philosophy is one that bunch of moronic control-freaks have taken particularly to heart. It appeals to their sense of witless entitlement.

However, the UK also has to apply EU Directives. Often at the same time as the UK tries to apply the more fashionable parts of US legal "innovation". With – judging by the many British satirical TV shows on the subject – hilarious results.

The upshot of which is that, if YouTube have any service infrastructure in the UK, said infrastructure really *is* subject to UK laws. It doesn't even have to be a server: if they have a peering agreement that involves having a piece of their physical infrastructure in the UK, they don't get to pretend they have no presence there.

As for why, imagine the following scenario:

Suppose I build an oil refinery in Country A, which has conveniently lax waste disposal laws. However, the refinery is very close to the border of Country B and it's cheaper to run my waste pipe across that border. Country B has much stricter waste disposal laws, but I argue that, as my refinery is in Country A, I'm only obliged to abide by Country A's laws...

... but that doesn't work, and for the exact same reasons as the "YouTube argument" you make: the part of that waste pipe that is in Country B makes it subject to Country B's laws. I cannot claim I have no real presence in Country B solely on the basis that the refinery itself that _produces_ the waste is in Country A.

YouTube is part of Google, who, rather famously, have lots of physical infrastructure of their own all over the world, including a couple of data-centres in Europe—one of them in London [Source: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2008/03/27/google-data-center-faq/]. So yes, they are subject to the UK's laws.

2
2
Silver badge

I don't deny that the bits of the Internet based in Britain are subject to British law. My problem is that Youtube's servers aren't in Britain (as far as I remember), and just because some other part of the parent company is based in Britain doesn't make everything that company does subject to UK law. Or if it does, watch Google just ignore the ruling/pull out of London.

0
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

Apply the law equally

So the law should apply equally to the net as well as offline?

"bring internet publishing and social media in line with the mainstream press."

Fine. So if I object to any article in any newspaper or on any television channel they are legally obliged to publish my objection with equal prominence? Sounds good.

13
0
Big Brother

Even better - it sounds like they're required to drop it down the memory hole.

Who controls the present, controls the past.

0
0
Angel

OK, so I felt deeply offended by Big Brother, X Factor, American Idol and Fox network as a whole.

7
1
Gold badge

"So if I object to any article in any newspaper or on any television channel they are legally obliged to publish my objection with equal prominence? Sounds good."

I believe that this *was* one of the proposals considered. I don't know what the outcome was. But yes, applying the law equally to on- and off- line publishers would seem (on the face of it) to be a good thing.

0
0
Flame

I wish to complain about the above post

I also wish to complain about the following post

7
0
NB
Flame

Let's take this to its logical conclusion

I wish to complain about the preceding complaint and preemptively complain about any successive complaints.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Bah

I'll not give you anything about which to complain!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

I complain against this invalid complaint.

0
0
Silver badge
Holmes

All right, stop that, this is far too silly!

0
0
Mushroom

Well...

I was going to complain about someone complaining about my as-yet unformed complaint but I guess I now have to complain about the fact that I can't.

This is getting complicated. My brain hurts.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

I object...

I object to your brain. Please remove it.

3
0
Silver badge

Very good, now just cough the reassuringly expensive legal fees and we'll get right on it.

0
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

well done

you have won the internet for the day.

0
0
Silver badge

I object to this reply

Please remove it

4
0
Silver badge
Go

Er-

Is this the right room for an argument?

1
0
Bronze badge
Joke

No, this is abuse.

Arguments are third door on the left.

Wanker.

1
0
Big Brother

Missing the context

We need a new context to consider things done in a different medium.

Simply treating the internet as a different type of newspaper or public meeting or club isn't dealing with the dynamics of the place and assuming that anonymous posts are untrue shows an unwillingness on the part of the "reformers" to engage with their subject.

It suggests to me that these "reformers" might have an agenda which is less to do with helping frame the internet and more to do with ensuring that it fits their preconceived notions of acceptable behaviour - perhaps they should be called "conformers".

Big Brother say - get your forehead barcode tatoo now.

5
0

Does using a pseudonym constitute 'anonymous posting'? If I make up a name on the spot and am never known for that pseudonym again, it is essentially anonymous to all intents and purposes.

Also, it doesn't seem that clear what the grounds are for making a complaint, particularly if it's going to be shown with equal prominence (and presumably, can't be pre-moderated to thwart censorship of any kind by the site operator, e.g. if the site's own content, not user-supplied content, is libellous)... this strikes me as perpetuating the spam epidemic currently going across discussion forums across the 'net - if anyone can make a complaint, surely that means that a spam bot just has to know to make a complaint rather than a post.

0
0
Gold badge

Re: using a pseudonym

I would *hope* that the acid test, for legal purposes, would be whether the site managers could direct the complainer's lawyers to you. That is, as long as the "single-use" name is traceable to you by a legally empowered entity, it is not anonymous in the eyes of the law.

Anything else would appear to be an abuse of the meaning of the word "anonymous".

0
0
Anonymous Coward

youwhatthen ?

i wish to complain about this post

and that one.

this is interesting

Q. Is there anything that I have to prove in a libel or slander action?

A. In both libel and slander cases, you need to prove that:

The allegations have been published to one or more persons (other than yourself)

The allegations refer to you – either that you are named, pictured or are identifiable in some other way

That the words tend to lower you in the eyes of right thinking members of society.

In slander cases, you will also need to prove that you have suffered financial loss, unless the allegations relate to your profession or an offence punishable by imprisonment.

from here

http://www.rjw.co.uk/legal-services/media-libel-privacy/faqs/

Does this then become the worlds easiest DOS, login to website , make post , log out , login as someone else , libelellous statement against your first comment, login as first user , complain

website gets taken down ?

or have I missed something ?

0
0
Silver badge

You missed a point

"Q. Is there anything that I have to prove in a libel or slander action?

A. In both libel and slander cases, you need to prove that: ...etc"

You also need to prove that the allegedly defamatory statements are false or misleading. Publishing true and factual information about someone, no matter how unpleasant, is not defamation. It could potentially be a breach of privacy, however, if the information is of a personal or private nature. But for defamation, slander or libel, the published statements must be shown to be untrue.

0
0

Other way round

It's the other way round, unfortunately - the burden of proof is on the *defender* to show that the statements they made are true. This is part of what makes defamation so much of a pain to defend against, particularly in England and Wales - hence the tourism.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Public interest

"if there is an overriding public interest in publication"

How can you know there's public interest if the post/article has been taken down already?

3
0
Anonymous Coward

I am not a lawyer...

...however, reading the rest of the bill, suddenly these proposals seem much more justifiable

Consider this extract from section 98:

" 98. Under the current law, online forums and hosts... are liable for statements made by their users ... where they fail to take down material once they know that it may contain a defamatory allegation... They then become an attractive target for the person who was defamed due to their ability to pay substantial damages."

So *right now* online forums can already be in legal trouble if they don't take down comments following a complaint. This bill is actually giving them a second option - as detailed in the article, the material stays up, but the complaint goes next to it (or something slightly more complicated for anon comments). That sounds better to me.

Furthermore:

"99. A further difficulty is that once a host or site owner employs moderators[163] or a monitoring system of any kind including a flag and report system, they are at risk of losing their defence if the moderation process leads to knowledge of, and therefore liability for, material which is defamatory.[164] As the law stands, far from encouraging service providers to foster legitimate debate in a responsible manner and removing the most extreme material, it encourages them to ignore any dubious material but then to remove it without question following a complaint...."

So currently, by employing moderators to squash the trolls (good thing!), websites make themselves *more* vulnerable to legal action (bad thing!). The bill says this needs to stop:

"106. ...the Government will need to reform the Defamation Act 1996 to the effect that secondary publishers—such as internet hosts or service providers—shall not be treated as becoming liable for allegedly defamatory statements solely by virtue of having moderated the material or the site more generally...."

So hurrah, websites can moderate more freely, and we all see less goatse.

Am I being taken in by their phrasing? N00b law misunderstanding? Failing to spot the first step down a slippery slope? This seems to be an attempt to make internet law *less* ridiculous. Yet the reg article phrases it like a jackboot coming down to squash online comments. Anyone knowledgeable about this stuff care to tell me why I've gotten this so wrong?

Posting as anon, so that those who disagree can easily have my comment removed :)

4
2
Silver badge
Unhappy

What if someone posts something that is factual and in the public domain? Does that also have to be removed on a single complaint if the poster is anonymous?

0
0
Gold badge

Re: factual and in the public domain

I'd hope that it was removed. Anything else would seem to require *somebody* applying a level of judgement that makes the whole process subjective, which is not a good thing in legal matters.

If you have a problem with that, perhaps you should consider posting under a traceable name and turning up in court to say "It is true and in the public domain." (and then claim lots of costs from the idiot who sued).

0
0
Thumb Up

Safety in Jockistan

Luckily this bill only applies to England and Wales.

TERRITORIAL EXTENT AND APPLICATION

4. The Bill extends to England and Wales only.

1
1

I am offended by your headline

I wish the above posting removed...

0
0
Anonymous Coward

I wish to complain about my post.

It's bollocks.

0
0
Thumb Up

I would like to complain about these posts!

Most of the posts on this page are glorifying being anonymous! i would like to complain about ALL of them and if they all don't reveal who they are and come back with a compelling argument as to why they are glorifying this subject. i want you to remove this news artical!

See what i did?

:D

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

This land

"We agree that the internet cannot be exempt from the law of the land"

IMHO the problem has always been deciding *which* land the internet isn't exempt from the law of.

My money's on the US.

2
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.