Proposed changes to defamation laws will have significant effects on review sites liabilities and anonymity
The recent publication of recommendations for the change in defamation laws contained some interesting and significant proposals concerning online defamation and anonymity.
Striking the balance of the different elements - protecting freedom of speech, encouraging consumer feedback and dealing with malice and defamation from anonymous posters is difficult, but certainly the proposals are very much in line with what KwikChex has been campaigning for.
Certainly, it is still a work in progress, but excerpts such as the following appear sensible and fair:
Under the committee's proposals web hosts or ISPs that receive complaints about an anonymously-posted comment would have to remove it "unless the author promptly responds positively to a request to identify themselves" or unless the ISP believes that the material should remain on the site because it is in the public interest.
ISPs or hosts would have to post a "notice of complaint" beside a contested post from an identified author. The complaints notice "reduces the sting of the alleged libel but protects free speech by not requiring the host or service provider to remove what has been said," the committee said.
Individuals who complain could then apply to the courts for an order that would force the host or ISP to immediately take down the offending material or become liable for defamation themselves, it said.
"We recommend that any material written by an unidentified person should be taken down by the host or service provider upon receipt of complaint, unless the author promptly responds positively to a request to identify themselves, in which case a notice of complaint should be attached,"
We would like to discuss with review websites, the possibility of making such actions a voluntary code, prior to actual changes to the laws.