back to article Draft UK libel law forces websites to axe mudslinging comments

Courts would have the power to order website operators to remove comments that have already been ruled to be defamatory even if those website operators did not post the comments themselves, according to the latest revisions to the Defamation Bill. Under the Bill people who have been allegedly defamed would be able to bring an …


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  1. Great Bu

    They're all a bunch of donkey felching gits.

    (Sorry, just getting it in before it becomes illegal)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They're all a bunch of donkey felching gits.

      From the look of it in order for them to force The Register to remove your comment they must first do the following:

      1. Identify you - court order to the reg for your IP, court order to the ISP for your identity.

      2. Bring an action of Defamation against you and win it.

      3. Have the Judge rule that the comment is defamatory.

      4. Submit a "notice of complaint" to The Register.

      The difficulty is in 2 and 3. Both of these have to happen before any comment is forced to be removed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They're all a bunch of donkey felching gits.

        But surely it's not libel if it's true?

    2. Nash_Equilibrium

      Re: They're all a bunch of donkey felching gits.


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ooh, can't wait for the pamphlet through the door giving the examples of what is and isn't allowed.

    Bring on the thought police

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Defamation Bill is gay. -- Anonymous Coward. What are you going to do about that!

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Defamation Bill is gay

      He's actually bi - I had a threes-up with him and Defamation Gill once - On the 'Heath' we used the old 'looking for badgers' excuse.

      Sue me Bill and I'll tweet those pictures of you in your badger fursuit at 'that convention'

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Big Brother

      I should be careful, if I were you. I was trawling through my comments the other day and noticed that it included a couple I'd apparently posted as 'Anonymous Coward'.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Sigh. Hit return too soon there. There should be a smiley after that comment.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Hah! No it doesn't -

        ...whoops. :-)

    3. NogginTheNog


      Nothing as I don't consider being gay an insult.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I expect all products on Amazon to immediately be 5 stars

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually, for once...

    ..this seems like common sense. But I'm sure they will balls it up by the time it becomes law...

    1. spodula

      Re: Actually, for once...

      Really? You do know that something hasnt got to be untruthful to be defamatory.

      I could say for instance that Nick Clegg is a Lying git for promising not to vote for an increase in tutuion fees, and then going ahead and doing it.

      Thats defamatory (Because it villifies him) , but True as well.

      In theory, in the UK, this could get me sued for libel, as unlike in the US, the truth is not an absolute defence against libel, but i would probably get away with it because both statements are in the public domain, and i could prove it via public documents, and the standard is lower for publig figures anyway.

      however, if anyone taking me to court would probably win anyway, because i would quickly bancrupt myself. (Even though I would get most of my money back if i won)

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Actually, for once...

        In theory, in the UK, this could get me sued for libel, as unlike in the US, the truth is not an absolute defence against libel

        I'd return your law degree, fair comment has always been a defence in the UK against both libel and slander, along with justification and privilege. What you said about Nick Clegg was both justified and fair comment.

        1. spodula

          Re: Actually, for once...

          Sadly cant return my internet law degree, i have lost the secret decoder ring they sent when i sent my $10 off.

          Fair comment on your fair comment though. it was only an example, and an easy one. However, even that's not an absolute defense, and its not a defense at all if i don't have the money to defend it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Actually, for once...

        You may want to read the bloody article (I know it'as hard for many readers here).

        The case has ALREADY been proven in a court of law. It simply stops the person involved having to sue every single publication on a case by case basis, a simple, I won the case, so please remove the article will be enough.

        It is NOT a case of somebody going, "I don't like that article, you must remove it under law."

        1. spodula
          Thumb Up

          Re: Actually, for once...

          The case has ALREADY been proven in a court of law. It simply stops the person involved having to sue every single publication on a case by case basis, a simple, I won the case, so please remove the article will be enough

          Actually, you have a point there. Whoops. Mea Culpa.

  6. John Lilburne

    Will this put an end to ...

    ... the wikipedia defamation engine?

  7. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    One whole load of foetid dingo's kidneys

    Will that still be OK?

    After all, it is just a quote from the great Douglas Adams

    And at least I didn't say Belgium


  8. Arachnoid

    Hmm I wonder if anybody has considered making an automated spambot that makes defamatory remarks based on news releases and twitter feeds.Now that would leave the courts in a pickle of who to take action against................

  9. Paul 87

    Don't see what the fuss is, this seems like a sensible step to take to tidy up the already existing laws on libel and defamation of character. Admitedly, like many of the laws, it only benefits those who are rich enough to afford the time in court, but being able to force site holders to take down entries after they've been ruled to be illegal hardly seems like an erosion of free speech.

    Incidentally, the UK *doesn't* and never has had the right to free speech, that's strictly part of the American (and possibly French) constitutions. We haven't needed an implicit right, because our legal system is based on the principle that everything is legal, providing it isn't illegal, whereas many other countries work on the presumption that everything is illegal unless there's a law or constitutional right allowing you to do it. Hence why you get a tonne of laws saying "You can't do/say this"

  10. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Not perfect

    Something had to be done and I am sure this will need revising but a start.

  11. Tim Brown 1


    How does all this work when you start to take into account international boundaries?

    Say you have an american posting on a website run by a company incorporated in Bermuda hosted on severs based in Sweden....

  12. JaitcH

    Politicians protecting crooked politicians and Fascist's sons

    Politicians and a guy called Max seem to be the thinnest skinned types around, so obviously this clap-trap is to corneal the evil doings of elected officials and sons of Fascists who like their females in fives.

    There should be a provision that excludes any public official, or any person, paid from the public purse from being protected by this legislation.

    It should not be used to conceal things that have occurred, as was the case involving the five females with a male dressed in a Nazi uniform. If someone in the public arena wishes to perform certain unusual tricks they should be expected to face any exposure.

    Of course, like all attempts at censorship, the UK courts jurisdiction runs out after a few miles at sea and then anything goes. Naturally the House of Commons would remain a potential source of hot gossip.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Politicians protecting crooked politicians and Fascist's sons

      Mosley brought and won his action on grounds of breach of privacy, not at all to do with libel. And he was quite right to do so - I personally have no time for him but "News of the World" utterly failed to show that there was any public interest in who, where, or how he fucks: the right to privacy especially in one's intimate life trumps vague suppositions that this had a bearing on his professional conduct or that his bondage kink is some kind of family weakness passed from his odious father.

      Unless you want to live in a land of curtain-twitching prurience - perhaps the sneer of the Daily Mail coupled to the authoritarianism of certain US religious communities?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Politicians protecting crooked politicians and Fascist's sons

      Except, of course, there was no Nazi uniform the Daily Mail (IIRC) just made that bit up and worked under the assumption that Mosley wouldn't sue because he'd bottle out for a quiet life.

      That you go on to repeat the story that it was a Nazi themed orgy, sort of goes to show that Mosley was very brave in standing up to the media and saying "No, you can't invade my privacy, make shit up and then publish it".

      That his father was a fascist is nothing to do with him, my father is a teacher I don't teach people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Politicians protecting crooked politicians and Fascist's sons

        Ahh... News of the World, not Daily Mail...

  13. PassiveSmoking

    Head, meet desk. *thud*

  14. Crisp Silver badge

    What a stupid law!

    Yet more legislation from people that don't actually know how the internet works.

    What are they going to do about the Wayback Machine? Ask that they not keep a historical archive?

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: What a stupid law!

      "What are they going to do about the Wayback Machine? Ask that they not keep a historical archive?"

      Not ask. Tell. There's no particular reason the WM should be above the law, is there?

      When did the Wayback Machine ever get my permission to copy my copyrighted material, by the way?

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: What a stupid law!


        If you ask WBM to remove your content they will, provided you can demonstrate that you are the rightful copyright owner.

  15. Dan Paul

    The end of Comedy and Sarcasm as we know it!

    Unfortunately, legislation like this will spell the end of comedy and sarcasm because thin skinned individuals will sue to have such comments/pages/etc. removed from the web.

    Is it libel or slander to voice the opinion that such and such political leader/candidate is a fatuous, blue blooded, douchebag?

    I think that is protected free speech IMHO, however changing the subject from political candidate to religious leader/deity will cause worldwide rioting and murder.

    The real issue is one of subjectivity. Though they should never enter into any judicial decision, the personal beliefs of the judge(s) Jury, Nation etc will influence the outcome and the outcome will most certainly be influenced by the locale of the presiding judiciary.

    That excreable, incindiary video is still up on Youtube ONLY because it is hosted in the United States.

    To make it perfectly clear to ALL, in the US we have something called "Religious Freedom" (which for the uninitiated means that we also have "Freedom FROM Religion"). We also have "Freedom of Speech".

    These two principles combined are the main reason why Dictators and Theocrats everywhere hate the US. Simply because they cannot control what we say or do like they do to their own citizens.

  16. teebie

    Mixed bag

    Under the proposed new laws, though, courts would be able to force website operators to act to remove comments if the judges have previously determined the comments to be defamatory.

    This is good - saving on legals costs for comments a court has already determined that are defamatory.

    website operators can generally defend themselves against such claims if they can "show that it was not [them] who posted the statement on the website", providing that it is possible for those suing to identify the individual who posted the comments

    But this is awful - if a commenter (whose comments a court finds defamatory in absentia) has anonymised themselves well enough that the website can't identify them then there is no way the wesbite can prove it isn't someone who writes for them. Meaning the site can do everything right and still fall foul of the law.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The end of anonymity

    The way I read para 5(3)(a), the website operator does not have any defence against a defamation action if it is not possible for the complainant to identify the poster. That is certainly the case for most of us who post under pseudonyms - I doubt if everyone gives ElReg their true names.

    So, in order to be safe, websites will have to demand true identities, at least on registration. Maybe pseudonyms could still be used, but the demand for real identity kicks a big whole in anonymity.

    How they can ensure real identities I don't know. I assume govt has something in the pipeline for that.

    1. 4ecks
      Big Brother

      Re: The end of anonymity

      " I assume govt has something in the pipeline for that." - finger-tip ID chip implants for everyone & NFC scanners on all internet enabled computer kit, means you have to digitally (geddit) sign all posts.

  18. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Presumably the gubbermint thought there was a risk that some other country might catch up on our extreme libel laws.

  19. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    ... and another thing

    Why do I keep reading the title as:

    Daft UK libel law

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No one should be allowed to post defamatory comments online

    The Internet is not above the law nor the many mindless who use it. Defamatory comments should not be posted and they should be removed immediately upon notice.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: No one should be allowed to post defamatory comments online

      Yes they should.......

      Hating the bastards in Microsoft, the phone and power companies and the crooks in the local, state and national government, adds value and meaning to my other wise worthless life.

      I quite enjoy dredging up ship loads of shit to fling at them in the public forums.

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