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.
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 …
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.
"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...
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.
"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."
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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 ?
"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.
...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.
"99. A further difficulty is that once a host or site owner employs moderators 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. 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 :)
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).
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?
1. There's a large and rather obvious contradiction between the rules being proposed and the claim that they "expect, and wish to promote, a cultural shift towards a general recognition that unidentified postings are not to be treated as true, reliable or trustworthy". If people can say what they want anonymously, then anonymous postings will be unreliable and will be ignored; if anonymous postings are subject to being taken down by anyone that complains, then anything that isn't taken down will be treated as rather more trustworthy.
2. "not regarded as credible unless the author is willing to justify or defend what they have written by disclosing his or her identity". This is stupid. The people who know best about something are often exactly the same people who have better things to do with their time than spend hundreds of hours "justifying" and "defending", and better things to do with their life savings than risk it in court. For example, if a business is ripping people off then you can be fairly sure that the business will diligently complain about every posting in which a ripped off customer accurately describes their miserable experience. But how many of those customers will be willing to "justify" and "defend", in court if necessary?
Someone posts something somewhere that offends someone.
10 people may read it, 5 care what it says and maybe one will remember it in 5 min.
Then the (I would use the word f*cker here but do not want to defame anyone) injured party files a complaint about it.. It becomes a hot news items and everyone is reading it and "talking" about it.
The (I would use the word idiot here, but don't want to defame anyone) person tries to get the post removed only to be told by the site owner in some other part of the world, how (I would use the word stupid here but don't want to defame anyone) silly are you to think we give a rats ass what a court in another country says.
God, it is a a great time to be alive.
Actually, I thought truth was not a valid defense under UK law.
"On the trial of any indictment or information for a defamatory libel, the defendant having pleaded such plea as hereinafter mentioned, the truth of the matters charged may be inquired into, but shall not amount to a defence, unless it was for the public benefit that the said matters charged should be published; and to entitle the defendant to give evidence of the truth of such matters charged as a defence to such indictment or information it shall be necessary for the defendant, in pleading to the said indictment or information, to allege the truth of the said matters charged in the manner now required in pleading a justification to an action for defamation, and further to allege that it was for the public benefit that the said matters charged should be published, and the particular fact or facts by reason whereof it was for the public benefit that the said matters charged should be published, to which plea the prosecutor shall be at liberty to reply generally, denying the whole thereof; and if after such plea the defendant shall be convicted on such indictment or information it shall be competent to the court, in pronouncing sentence, to consider whether the guilt of the defendant is aggravated or mitigated by the said plea, and by the evidence given to prove or to disprove the same: Provided always, that the truth of the matters charged in the alleged libel complained of by such indictment or information shall in no case be inquired into without such plea of justification: Provided also, that in addition to such plea it shall be competent to the defendant to plead a plea of not guilty: Provided also, that nothing in this Act contained shall take away or prejudice any defence under the plea of not guilty which it is now competent to the defendant to make under such plea to any action or indictment or information for defamatory words or libel."
-- Libel Act 1843 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/6-7/96)
So, not only must it be true, but it also has to be in the public benefit.
If I post as "JustaKOS" then I am anonymous and it seems fair that if I slag off someone who isn't anonymous, they should be able to get the post removed. If I choose to reveal my identity, on the other hand, then I can keep the post up and the plaintif's complaint will be posted for all to see. Seems reasonable.
If a person/company seeks to use this to suppress negative comment, then they should bear in mind that the original post is likely to have been copied and spread throughout the world (if interesting enough) and all they are doing is shutting the stable door...
And further, the fact that a post is suddenly removed says a lot more about the person/company's sensitivities than mere conjecture might have. Sometimes it's just better to let a subject die and hope no-one really noticed.
So what happens if the defamation is not actually hosted in one place? What if I posted to usenet, or just emailed my libellous vitriol to a bunch of people. Is the court claiming jurisdiction over every computer in the world currently or at some time connected to the Internet? Or is this all just ill-conceived bollocks?
It's a power grab, by England's corrupt Parliament.
Treasonous officials are pushing this in the US as well.
It will be used to quash dissent.
You English need to arrest the fucking banksters before they destroy everything!
None of this is a coincidence.
****** Anonymous or unidentified postings are not to be treated as true, reliable or trustworthy. ******
Adding a disclaimer would also seem to advance the spirit of this proposal.
****** Anonymous or unidentified postings are not to be treated as true, reliable or trustworthy. ******
The only question I have is how often such a disclaimer needs to be poseted.
****** Anonymous or unidentified postings are not to be treated as true, reliable or trustworthy. ******
It would be effective unless someone used a "disclaimer remover".
"upon receiving a complaint, website editors would need to publish the complaint next to the original article"
I wish to complain because your web blog on what you and your friends did last Saturday didn't mention my web site at [url] that sells fake Viagra! You are now legally obliged to publish this complaint next to the original article.
So this is the Parliament's answer to the Gyan Riggs superinjunction issue? Instead of doing away with the stupid superinjunction thing, now they're making it so that even more stuff can get wiped out.
Steve Jobs would be creaming in his pants if he were still alive; he would get all Apple criticism to dissappear.
It all sounds very promising to myself. It is not a landgrab, it is not a conspiracy theory - hell it is not even aliens. It is a simple bit of law to enable people to report defamtory and libelous comments which will a) Either force the comments to be taken down or b) Force the person posting the comments to back up his comments in court. I do hope this will stop the the younger generations spouting so much shit. Somewhat fair in my eyes.
PS. It is not a crackdown on free speach - defamation and libel are not free speech. They are normally rather malacious comments.
PPS. It will stil be possible to say 'In my opinion Justin Bieber is a smelly cunt licker' because it is an opinion and not stated as fact.
But this law doesn't care about that; there is no legal tests required. According to everything I'm reading here, the takedown/reply notice must be done immediately and without judicial oversight. If someone writes, "I sleep at night." you can tell the ISP to put up, "HA HA DISREGARD THAT, I SUCK COCKS" and the ISP is obliged to do so. There is no initial test for sanity.
So, yes, enabling anyone (from any organization, presumably) to silence or condemn anyone else for any reason without anyone being able to stop it? Maybe not a crackdown in the normal sense, but a chilling effect of the highest order.
(...which is why it will never happen in the US. Even if the tea partiers managed to get such a thing through congress and signed (presumably under president... gulp... Romney), it would be shot down on appeal before you could blink. Even a super conservative court ruled in favor of the legality of selling violent games to toddlers; they won't even bother to see it if it gets to them after being appealed up.
not to mention the British Government, with its eternal werritties - one is hardly surprised that the question of «defamation» would be a sore point with them. British courts are to defamation suits as the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas is for patent suits. Both types of legislation are in desperate need of reform, but alas, it would seem that in both cases, they are (not unsurprisingly) being modified in the wrong direction....
But how will this apply to archives? Say, in 2005 Fred Smith said Jim Jones was a pillock, and Jim Jones now objects to it. By removing it from the archives thay are saying that the event didn't actually happen. To be consistant, they have to apply the same methodology to print media and send Winston Smith around all the newspaper libraries to excise all the archived objectional material.
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