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Proposed UK Online Libel Rules Would Restrict Anonymous Posting

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the name-your-name dept.

Government 219

judgecorp writes "A Parliamentary Committee in the UK has suggested that sites should be protected against libel claims against contributors — as long as those contributors are identified. Anonymous postings should be taken down if someone complains of libel in them, in a set of proposals which online community groups have described as 'chilling.'"

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Anyone Surprised? (5, Insightful)

RobinEggs (1453925) | about 3 years ago | (#37787726)

It was only a matter of time before the absurdly loose libel laws and near total lack of privacy law in the UK combined in some manner even more horrifying than either of them were individually.

Synergy at its darkest.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787838)

Dammit, no more posting A/C for the UK readers? How am I suppose to say that it would take an absolute idiot to try to pass such an asinine law as that?

    (Dammit, I want the points for being right, but I have to post A/C to make the point.)

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787938)

We can still post A/C; it's just that if we say something libellous, Slashdot will have to remove our comments at the first complaint if it wants not to be seen as responsible for the remark. This is better than the current situation, where Slashdot would be seen as responsible even before they failed to take down the anonymous comment.

(Basically, the law requires that *someone* accept responsibility for remarks so that they can be sued; if you want to let people post lies anonymously, then the website has to accept the responsibility for them.)

Re:Anyone Surprised? (2, Insightful)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | about 3 years ago | (#37788032)

This is better than the current situation, where Slashdot would be seen as responsible even before they failed to take down the anonymous comment.

Is that the current situation? It would seem like if it was then Slashdot would not still be here.

(Basically, the law requires that *someone* accept responsibility for remarks so that they can be sued; if you want to let people post lies anonymously, then the website has to accept the responsibility for them.)

And if you want to post the truth anonymously so that those whose crimes you're disclosing can't retaliate, well, sucks to be you apparently.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 3 years ago | (#37788330)

And if you want to post the truth anonymously so that those whose crimes you're disclosing can't retaliate, well, sucks to be you apparently.

Then just post under a false or made-up name, rather than anonymously. Problem solved.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

peppepz (1311345) | about 3 years ago | (#37788382)

I don't think "identifiable" means that. It most probably means that the site has to keep the "made-up name" together with the poster's IP address for a law-specified number of years, so the offended can track and can sue the poster instead of suing the site itself.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (3, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | about 3 years ago | (#37789074)

In other words another law made by people who have no concept of the technologies they're legislating for (how easy it is to use TOR, or piggyback on someone's open wireless or whatever).

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 3 years ago | (#37789428)

I hate to point it out, but Slashdot, not being based in the UK, will have to do squat. As always, the US will completely ignore this (and rightly so) whilst at the same time forcing the UK to follow it's stupid patent rules. Slashdot will always be able to call on the 1st amendment to the US constitution. All this does is make another way for rich people in the UK to control the freedom expression of poor people in the UK.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787944)

No no, you have to be libelous in order for this to matter.

So You Anonymous Coward, are indeed a coward for being anonymous!

Oh and is it me or when linking here via RSS my cookie isn't keeping me logged in? Friggin annoying

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787970)

No no, you have to have someone say you're being libelous. It doesn't actually matter if you are or not as long as the site your on doesn't care to fight it.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788638)

No no, you have to have someone say you're being libelous. It doesn't actually matter if you are or not as long as the site your on doesn't care to fight it.

I am highly offended by the libelous nature of your comment. I am most certainly NOT a coward, and demand this besmirchment of my honor immediately be purged!


Bravely ran away, away, he bravely ran away...
When danger reared its ugly head,
he Bravely turned his tail and fled,
Brave, brave, brave, Anonymous Coward!

Re:Anyone Surprised? (2)

cappp (1822388) | about 3 years ago | (#37788012)

Read the proposal itself [parliament.uk] , you might be somewhat comforted. I think TFA is specifically referring to section 3 [parliament.uk] where they state

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. If the internet service provider believes that there are significant reasons of public interest that justify publishing the unidentified material—for example, if a whistle-blower is the source—it should have the right to apply to a judge for an exemption from the take-down procedure and secure a "leave-up" order.[170] We do not believe that the host or service provider should be liable for anonymous material provided it has complied with the above requirements...Any host or service provider who refuses to take-down anonymous material should be treated as its publisher and face the risk of libel proceedings, subject to the standard defences and our proposals relating to leave up orders. It is for the Government to make clear in the Bill any exceptional circumstances in which unidentified material should have evidential value for the purposes of defamation proceedings.

I'm not sure how I feel about the proposals themselves but they're still in the consultation phase - if you disagree, call your Member's number.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788070)

Although it all stinks,
I think it is doubly stinky because the service provider has to anti up and pay for legal fees to retain anonymous info on their site even if the libel claim is dubious or false. So the site/ISP will carry all legal costs or take it down unless the AP bothers to notice and id themselves.

yay lawyers!

Re:Anyone Surprised? (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 3 years ago | (#37789204)

if you disagree, call your Member's number.

Sorry, but I can't decide whether to make this joke a little bit vulgar or a whole lot vulgar.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788358)

I would like to say "Fuck the Queen" while I still can

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

JosKarith (757063) | about 3 years ago | (#37788586)

You're about 2 decades behind Messrs Mayall and Edminson, sir...

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788588)

Heathen! How dare you speak that way of royalty. I believe you mean God Fuck the Queen.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788890)

... in the ass. With the rusty armored cock of a dead medieval horse!

Re:Anyone Surprised? (2)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 3 years ago | (#37789152)

I would like to say "Fuck the Queen" while I still can

That's not libel. It would be libelous if you were to falsely claim in writing to have spent a night receiving grade-A blowjobs from her majesty.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about 3 years ago | (#37789330)

That's high treason, not libel.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 years ago | (#37788804)

Care to point what you refer to?
Does a lack of privacy laws (do they really lack?) not indicate that you need stronger lible laws as compensation?

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about 3 years ago | (#37789210)

I'm skipping the anonymous part.
But what about the report that chiropractors aren't real doctors that came our a few years ago?
Or how saying anything about a celebrity/gov official is considered out of bounds (even with sources)?

Hate US journalism/reporting/TMZ as much as you want, but at least the government doesn't censor it.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788954)

*facepalm*

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37789286)

This does not introduce new powers to sue, it just clarifies who is liable when a defamatory statement is posted anonymously. It should be no surprise that the site hosting the defamatory material is at fault.

However, this law would allow any site to host defamatory material for as long as they like until they receive a complaint. See the fine print at the top of this page?

The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.

You wouldn't need that in the UK under this law. You wouldn't need to pre-moderate comments. You could let people post what they liked without having to pre-empt the courts. In short, this proposal is a Good Thing.

Crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787730)

:(

What does this mean for non UK sites? (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 3 years ago | (#37787740)

I know that UK libel laws are stupidly easy to abuse, but does anyone know if those laws can be applied to a website hosted outside the UK and not having a direct UK affiliation (ie a .com not a .co.uk)?

Re:What does this mean for non UK sites? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787754)

in before the entire UK internet moves its hosting to China or something

Re:What does this mean for non UK sites? (3, Informative)

mcavic (2007672) | about 3 years ago | (#37787862)

No, the UK can't force anything on a site hosted outside the UK. They can block the traffic inside the UK, with varying degrees of effectiveness (see China, Egypt).

Re:What does this mean for non UK sites? (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 3 years ago | (#37788082)

No, the UK can't force anything on a site hosted outside the UK. They can block the traffic inside the UK, with varying degrees of effectiveness (see China, Egypt).

If they can tie either an anonymous post by a UK citizen, or website/hosting ownership of the offshore website where an anonymous post by a UK citizen is made to a UK citizen, couldn't they prosecute them?

I'm not at all certain that a UK citizen in the UK would be safe from prosecution just because they either made an anonymous post on an offshore website, or if they administered or paid for hosting an offshore website where a UK citizen made an anonymous post.

Governments and corporate entities worldwide share a common interest in desiring the end of internet anonymity for individuals. Don't expect such efforts to halt the ability of individuals to communicate anonymously to end with the UK

As proof, just look to the recent /. story about the Italian EU MEP, Tiziano Mott,i advocating "black boxes" for logging be required by law to be connected to every personal internet communications device.

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/10/20/0311234/eu-debates-installing-a-black-box-on-your-computer [slashdot.org]

Strat

Re:What does this mean for non UK sites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788384)

two UK guys where jailed recently for posting hate speech on a US website, so yes, the UK will go all nazi on you and jail you for whatever you say, regardless of where you say it.

Re:What does this mean for non UK sites? (1)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37788180)

AIUI, if anyone with the administrative priveleges to remove a post were in the UK, this would apply to them, regardless of the physical location or network address of the server.

Re:What does this mean for non UK sites? (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 3 years ago | (#37788584)

Well, if it's accessible in the UK, then the libelled person can sue in a UK court, and will probably win. There's not a lot they can do to you if you never enter the UK.

Re:What does this mean for non UK sites? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about 3 years ago | (#37789336)

You can get a judgement in the High Court, and you can transfer that judgement to courts in other EU countries. Otherwise you might have difficulty enforcing the judgement, but yes, the law does apply unless you block UK IP addresses.

That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (2)

c.r.o.c.o (123083) | about 3 years ago | (#37787782)

The way I see it, there is no way for the UK government to control UK or foreign citizens posting on foreign sites. All this new statute will achieve is moving the servers offshore and killing homegrown businesses. Sure, the new sites will not have the .co.uk domain, but with so many TLDs available today, I doubt it makes as big a difference as it used to.

As an example, one of the sites I frequent is radomcarmodel.to for Toronto, not for Tonga. We are yet to have a single visitor that made that confusion.

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (4, Interesting)

caitsith01 (606117) | about 3 years ago | (#37787952)

The way I see it, there is no way for the UK government to control UK or foreign citizens posting on foreign sites.

Right now, if I am in France and you are in Venezuela, and you post a highly defamatory article about me on a server in New York, and someone else in the UK reads it... I can sue you in the UK for defamation. The law focuses on the place of publication, which at the moment is treated as the place where the material is accessed and read (arguable I can sue you in multiple places... see here: http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/it&law/c10_main.htm [ed.ac.uk] ). So long as I have some reputation in the UK and you cause harm to that reputation by publishing 'into' that jurisdiction, I can sue you there. This is a huge problem with internet defamation law at the moment.

There is no reason why the UK government can't make laws in relation to anything accessed from the UK, even if it's stored elsewhere.

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (2)

FutureDomain (1073116) | about 3 years ago | (#37788026)

Except that the UK would have to enforce it. The UK can't fine, imprison, or otherwise make your life miserable if you are from another country.

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | about 3 years ago | (#37788050)

Except that the UK would have to enforce it. The UK can't fine, imprison, or otherwise make your life miserable if you are from another country.

In a civil context enforcement of foreign judgments is perfectly possible and commonplace. They can easily make a law creating private civil rights which are then likely to be enforceable in most foreign jurisdictions.

In a criminal context, they can potentially extradite you.

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (2)

dr2chase (653338) | about 3 years ago | (#37788900)

I thought we recently (at least in the US) made it much harder to do just that.

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/837812-barack-obama-shuts-down-british-libel-tourism [metro.co.uk]

I'm not exactly sure what changes with this; is it all libel judgements, or only those that fail to meet a certain test?

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (3, Interesting)

TechLA (2482532) | about 3 years ago | (#37788076)

As long as you intend to only stay within your country, and as far as your own country doesn't extradite you for it. If you ever want to travel anywhere that has extradition treaty with UK (pretty much everywhere), they can get you. US has a long history of doing that, and afterwise enforcing their own laws to foreign nationals. Even with copyright infringers.

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (1)

Tim C (15259) | about 3 years ago | (#37788758)

They can if you ever set foot in the UK.

Stop defaming UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788982)

Your comments are defamatory of UK. Please remove them immediately!

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (1)

boethius78 (1002975) | about 3 years ago | (#37789312)

At least the joint committee are seeking to fix the problem of libel tourism. Have a look at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtdefam/203/20306.htm#a19 [parliament.uk] , a snippet of which is included below:

There have been growing concerns in recent years that defamation law in this country has come to be more protective of reputation than elsewhere in the world to such an extent that London has become the preferred location for defamation actions involving foreign parties with only a tenuous link to this jurisdiction. ... Some say that London has developed a reputation as the libel capital of the world and that the judgments of its courts are having a chilling effect on freedom of speech in other parts of the world. ... The draft Bill seeks to prevent claims against defendants who are not domiciled here or in another EU member state without a strong link existing to the jurisdiction of England and Wales. It prevents a court from hearing such a case unless it is satisfied that this jurisdiction is the "most appropriate" place for a defamation action to be brought.

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (-1, Offtopic)

chrismarklee (2485762) | about 3 years ago | (#37788182)

In this world you can really damage someone through the internet. Chris Owner Cel Financial Service Please visit my website for all your Income Tax Fillmore [taxprepfillmore.com] needs.

Re:That will just kill UK sites, won't it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788908)

There are some similar laws in my country implemented recently, and yes they don't have any effect for sites on foreign servers.

it's only a matter of time (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787800)

The internet was for a long time, a "wild west". This bought a magnification of human nature. It brought astounding good, people communicating instantly with others all around the world about their interests, collaborations to accomplish amazing things, freedom of communication, cross cultural contacts. It brought also trolls, idiots, collections of self reinforcing stupidity, harassment, greed.

But above all, it brought something the authorities couldn't control. And that scared them - it made them vulnerable to their own version of the Arab Spring, even if peacefully so, by shining a big light on their actions. It meant people couldn't be protected "for their own good". It meant there was communication they couldn't control. That couldn't be allowed to stand. The good that anonymity does will be lost, because of the bad it allows.

So: it's inevitable that it becomes much harder to be anonymous online, not just in the UK, but in the USA and elsewhere. Sure, those in the know will post through anonymous proxies and VPNs and so on, at least until such encrypted traffic is blocked. And then there is steganography, but at each of these steps, the number of people knowledgeable enough to do it becomes 3, maybe 4 orders of magnitude smaller.

It's only a matter of time until the internet becomes the most powerful panopticon the world has ever known. There aren't enough people who care, to stop it from happening.

Re:it's only a matter of time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787850)

Yes, do watch out who can see your browsing on the Internet. The next generation of free wi-fi is going to track exactly when you log in, which websites you visit and what Google searches you make. They will do all they can to link this to your identity and then use the information to market to you. I've seen the codes; this information is all quite trivial to collect. Most of the work is just organizing it effectively.

Your best bet is probably to go somewhere nobody expects consumer Internet: make an Amazon EC2 instance and VPN to it all the time, or something like that.

Re:it's only a matter of time (1)

xenobyte (446878) | about 3 years ago | (#37788208)

he next generation of free wi-fi is going to track exactly when you log in, which websites you visit and what Google searches you make. They will do all they can to link this to your identity and then use the information to market to you. I've seen the codes; this information is all quite trivial to collect. Most of the work is just organizing it effectively.

Your best bet is probably to go somewhere nobody expects consumer Internet: make an Amazon EC2 instance and VPN to it all the time, or something like that.

VPN is exactly why this won't happen. More and more people are becoming aware of just how invasive various entities are. Some track you and sell that information. Some abuse lobbying power to gain access to powers normally reserved for law enforcement in order to track down 'offenders' that violate copyrights or similar, and everybody completely disregarding the fact that an IP in no way uniquely identifies a specific person, nor a person that might be able to uniquely identify the real person actually using the IP for the 'offense'.

The best defense is to hide your IP all the time, preferably using a random IP VPN provider. The setup process is mind-boggling simple, both for PPTP and various SSL VPN solutions, and the use automated. The latter ones use regular SSL, which means that it is hard to detect and block, unless you block all SSL (port 443) and that's not an option. I predict that in the near future people would use this almost without thinking simply because everything else is becoming more and more riddled with surveillance and unwanted tracking, not to mention harassment from organizations that claim that you do something they have paid for the right to control and prevent you from doing.

I know this also makes it hard to track down people making threats and similar, but that is an unfortunate side-effect from this 'arms race'. But the troll is out of the box now and the technology is out there. It could have been avoided but greed and megalomania makes people act without thinking (or caring) about the bigger picture.

Re:it's only a matter of time (1)

rich_hudds (1360617) | about 3 years ago | (#37789068)

Don't forget to disable IPv6 if you're using Windows, otherwise people can see your IP address despite the VPN.

Re:it's only a matter of time (1)

dmomo (256005) | about 3 years ago | (#37788598)

Except for the fact that if the technology is there, it's very hard to suppress it. Not to say this cannot be done, but technology makes it very easy for us to communicate in many ways. Unless every form of communication is actively monitored even laws requiring anonymity will be but trivial roadblocks for those who desire to get a message to its destination. If communication is monitored, messages will be lost in the noise as they likely are now.

What I think will happen is this. Barriers will be put in place, and they will be circumvented. New barriers will be put in place and the contest will escalate. Some equilibrium must be reached, or not. But it will not be through technology or Legislation.

As communication becomes easier and more powerful, it will only be suppressed through physical restrictions, i.e making networks and computers pretty much useless for the common person by restricting any networking. Short of locking people up and not allowing electronics or electromagnetic activity, those people are going to be able to send messages covertly.

Re:it's only a matter of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37789404)

...at each of these steps, the number of people knowledgeable enough to do it becomes 3, maybe 4 orders of magnitude smaller.

Then it becomes our mission to write software that makes it one-click simple to do. If you want open source you need anonymity.

Anonymous comments huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787864)

/me waits patiently for thousands of "anonymous coward" replies.

simple .. (2)

jobst (955157) | about 3 years ago | (#37787866)

everyone is called "bill gates" from that moment onwards.

Re:simple .. (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 3 years ago | (#37788762)

No. Steve Jobs. Or Freddy Mercury.

Don't make US free speech arguments (5, Interesting)

caitsith01 (606117) | about 3 years ago | (#37787912)

It's important to understand that in the UK (and Australia... and Canada... and many other places) there are much, much stronger legal principles surrounding defamation than you are used to in the US. The idea is that you are free to say anything - but not free to cause harm to others without compensating them. So if you publish something which alleges that a particular individual is a child molester (and they aren't), they are entitled to come after you to recover in dollars the harm you have caused to their reputation.

There are scenarios in which both the US and common law systems seem perverse. In the common law world, defamation often becomes the tool of the rich and powerful to silence criticism or discussion about them. A country like Singapore demonstrates what happens when common law defamation is abused to the fullest extent. But in the US, people at times appear to have liberty to destroy reputations without consequence under the guise of "free" speech.

So to consider this, you have to start from the proposition that if someone publishes something which is defamatory of someone else, that person has a prima facie right to sue and recover damages. Another principle of common law defamation is that anyone involved in the publication process, or republication, is potentially liable along with the person making the defamatory statement. Including, for example, the operator of a website.

Right now, without any reform, it is already the case in many common law countries that a person who has been defamed on-line may pursue the website operator for disclosure of information about the original poster of the defamatory publication. In the context of anonymous publications, it already makes sense for the website to collect as much info as they can get away with about their users in order to protect them in this scenario. Where I live (Australia) this happens almost by default - anonymous posting is rare, and most sites make at least a token attempt to get your name and email address. I can also guarantee that any Australian website hit with a threat about a defamatory third party comment they are carrying will pull the comment instantly.

So the real question is, should defamatory anonymous on-line posting be regarded as similar to defamatory graffiti on a toilet door, where although someone is strictly speaking liable for it, there is general acceptance that to find them would be impossible? Or should it be regarded as something closer to a newspaper or television station which republishes someone's defamatory comments? In that scenario, the newspaper/TV station along with the person who made the comments would all be potentially liable.

Personally, I favour the "Wild West" view of the net. The almost absolute freedom of speech it provides in a practical sense also results in a corresponding decrease in the credibility accorded to any one posting on-line. Not too many people are dumb enough to read user comments on a website and take them with anything less than a shovel full of salt. However, I suspect our parliamentary and judicial overlords will see it rather differently, and this type of proposal will eventually make it into law...

End rant... if anyone's still reading.

Re:Don't make US free speech arguments (1)

TxRv (1662461) | about 3 years ago | (#37787986)

If saving face is so important, why not just bring back duels?

Re:Don't make US free speech arguments (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | about 3 years ago | (#37788508)

Because by the time you have tracked down the person harming you, its too late, the damage has already been done.
Killing him won't change that.

Re:Don't make US free speech arguments (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 3 years ago | (#37788512)

Because the more advanced societies of the world have realised that even things of importance are better dealt with without resorting to violence where possible.

Re:Don't make US free speech arguments (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 3 years ago | (#37788272)

So the real question is, should defamatory anonymous on-line posting be regarded as similar to defamatory graffiti on a toilet door, where although someone is strictly speaking liable for it, there is general acceptance that to find them would be impossible? Or should it be regarded as something closer to a newspaper or television station which republishes someone's defamatory comments? In that scenario, the newspaper/TV station along with the person who made the comments would all be potentially liable.

It depends on who is saying it.

Obviously ACoward posting on the Coward forums holds little weight in the eye of the average person. But a media personality or organisation begins to pass of malicious lies as fact with the express intent of destroying a business then those lies could do real damage. When discussing libel, we need to understand the intent and the scope of the message.

I'm well aware of the woeful state of Australia's Libel laws but given the crud that the likes of Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones spew out, without these laws we would be much worse off. If the chains were taken off personalities like Bolt, lives would actually be destroyed as he tries to push his agenda. As it is, he is held responsible for only the worst of what he says.

Also, this has already been tested in court. The Whirlpool vs 2Clix saga. 2Clix sued Whirlpool Forums founder Simon Wright over comments a Whirlpool user made over 2Clix' software. 2Clix dropped the case when they realised there was no hope in winning it. 2Clix bought more negative publicity on it by suing Mr Wright then the comments ever did.

Libel is no easy law to come up with, laws that are too loose will be abused as much as laws that is too restrictive. Personally I think they should be loosened for average people and tightened a lot for publishers. Defining "publisher" is also a problem as I dont consider a forum a publication yet it is a publication under some definitions, so considering the intent of the publisher is key (I'm sure CmdrTaco didn't design /. for the benefit GNAA trolls).

The Members of this Comittee are Pedophiles (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787950)

The members of this parliamentary committee are pedophiles.

Sincerely,

-Anonymous

P.S.: Oops, sorry. I meant "pædophiles."

Re:The Members of this Comittee are Pedophiles (0)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37788190)

Well, of course they are. It's a joint committee, so at least some of them must be Tories...

Libelous! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787974)

This entire thread is libelous! Our lawyers will contact your lawyers, it's the British, oops, American way.

- Bill Gates

It's only a matter of time... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37787990)

Until Baquack Obamailure tries to enact a similar law in the USA under the guise of national security.

Chilling?! (2, Insightful)

mvdwege (243851) | about 3 years ago | (#37788018)

Oh yes, the right to anonymously slander and libel people is such an important right, taking that away would be chilling.

All the proposal says is that if you run a site, you'd better be willing to moderate the anonymous trolls unless you want to be accused of libel. And to be fair, if an anonymous libel is posted on your site, it's hard to see who's legally liable but yourself when you let it stand.

Really, whining that this is an affront to free speech is missing the point. A right is a right as long as it doesn't infringe on others' rights. Free speech ends at libel and slander.

Re:Chilling?! (4, Insightful)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | about 3 years ago | (#37788112)

Free speech ends at libel and slander.

You have a human right to anonymously post true information. The problem is that this comes into conflict, not with libel laws, but with their enforcement: Someone whose identity is unknown cannot defend themselves against a charge of libel. So we have a problem: If we force the anonymous poster to reveal his identity in order to defend the truth of his statements, there is no longer the ability to have truthful anonymous speech -- anyone can make the accusation and force the poster to choose between the ability to be anonymous and the ability to communicate. But if we allow the post to stand because of that, you have something that is potentially libelous (but not proven to be in an adversary proceeding), which continues to be available.

Now if you throw in the fact that a post by someone anonymous will have extremely low credibility unless it can be independently verified, which mitigates the damage done by a potentially libelous statement, it weighs strongly in favor of protecting anonymous speech at the expense of people having to grow thicker skin.

Re:Chilling?! (1)

bejiitas_wrath (825021) | about 3 years ago | (#37788248)

The 4chan website is notorious for posting all kinds of material slandering various people without their knowledge, how would this apply to that site? I understand that if someone put up an anonymous imageboard website in the UK the equivalent of /b/, it would be targeted constantly if this law was in effect. I do not understand how that website is still up after all the stuff that has been posted there. But getting back to the point, this law sounds like the start of online censorship to restrict free speech and to allow the authorities to track the poster of comments they do not agree with.

Re:Chilling?! (1)

delinear (991444) | about 3 years ago | (#37789148)

The key component in a libel action is that it must cause the offended party some harm. If a habitual liar makes claims about you, the chances of them being believed are minimal so you have no real complaint. If the editor of an esteemed newspaper does the same, you almost certainly do have a complaint. In between is every shade of grey possible, but the chances of someone successfully proving that comments on /b/ or a UK equivalent were taken seriously by anyone who mattered to them in such a way that it caused them harm are pretty minimal. Of course, that doesn't stop the rich doing what they usually do - abusing libel law to inconvenience those who can't afford a raft of lawyers and lots of time off work to fight their corner.

Re:Chilling?! (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 3 years ago | (#37788590)

If someone posts anonymous notes to all of someone else's neighbours saying that they were forced to leave their last home because they abused the local children I believe that this should be illegal and efforts should be made to discover who did it. If they did the same thing via email, my view would not change. If they did the same thing on a local community forum, again I see no reason to treat this differently.

Anonymity on the internet has provided immeasurable benefit and I to am sad to think that it will become less common in future. Sadly the worst amongst (and I include a sizeable minority of Anonymous in that group) have abused the easy anonymity and safety provided by international boundaries to the point where it can't be ignored.

Re:Chilling?! (1)

digitig (1056110) | about 3 years ago | (#37788712)

You have a human right to anonymously post true information.

Who says? I don't remember that clause in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Re:Chilling?! (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 3 years ago | (#37788888)

You have a human right to anonymously post true information.

Who says? I don't remember that clause in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It was covered in Inalienable Ethics 101 at Starfleet Academy. You were probably out scoring some Green Orion Slave Girl poon tang at the time.

Re:Chilling?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788968)

agreed, though let's get back to reality...

as posted by cappp above and taken from here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtdefam/203/20302.htm

"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. If the internet service provider believes that there are significant reasons of public interest that justify publishing the unidentified material—for example, if a whistle-blower is the source—it should have the right to apply to a judge for an exemption from the take-down procedure and secure a "leave-up" order.[170] We do not believe that the host or service provider should be liable for anonymous material provided it has complied with the above requirements...Any host or service provider who refuses to take-down anonymous material should be treated as its publisher and face the risk of libel proceedings, subject to the standard defences and our proposals relating to leave up orders. It is for the Government to make clear in the Bill any exceptional circumstances in which unidentified material should have evidential value for the purposes of defamation proceedings."

so you can see that if the provider believes the information to have merit they can get a judge to investigate without the need to expose the anonymous poster. also i don't see anything that would expose anyone, the results is that the comment must be taken down, not that the poster must be revealed.

Re:Chilling?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788122)

Right, because the site is *totally* not going to track your speech for anyone who wants to claim it is libelous. And they're totally not going to remove your speech immediately if someone makes such a claim. Yeah, no chilling effect at all on speech. None whatsoever.

Re:Chilling?! (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 3 years ago | (#37788708)

A right is a right as long as it doesn't infringe on others' rights.

You mean like the right to not be offended, the right to not have other people make others not like you using speech, or the right to not have your imaginary reputation ruined by someone? I don't care much for those "rights." How about not being an idiot (as defined by me) by believing everything that you hear?

And it is possible for something to be a right even if doing it means infringing on other peoples' rights. I see no reason that it wouldn't be. You might not like it, but I don't see why it's impossible.

Even if I didn't think that speech needed to be absolutely free, I still don't think I would like this law. There will always be "bad" content posted. I do not think we need to punish the owner of the website (who didn't create the content) for every little thing (because they didn't moderate it). If they can't find out the identity of the one who posted the content, then that is simply too bad. Some "bad" people will get away. That doesn't mean that we need to essentially try to eliminate anonymity.

Re:Chilling?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788714)

You seem to have a weird definition of free speech. Is it only free speech when it doesn't hurt anyone from the millions of citizens? There are numerous problems with libel laws. First, they can be evaded easily by careful wording. That's why politicians rarely lose a libel case: these laws only affect the clueless laymen. Second, language is not exact: a part of text can mean, and sometimes does mean, more than one thing. How is a judge supposed to decide between the possibilities? Many people were convicted because of unfortunate jokes. Third, libel cases are low profile. As the stakes aren't high (most of the time just a fine or censoring of something), they are often assigned to novice judges. But, because of the first two statements, libel laws are very hard to decide. Thus, the most incompetent/corrupt judges are given the hardest cases.

The results should be obvious if you opened your eyes. Libel in most cases is just a tool for corporate/political bullies to suppress criticism. You are in the wrong here, not being criticised is not a human right. Free speech ends at libel and slander laws. And as a European, I am ashamed.

Re:Chilling?! (2)

itsdapead (734413) | about 3 years ago | (#37788736)

Oh yes, the right to anonymously slander and libel people is such an important right, taking that away would be chilling.

Actually, the real chilling effect is the inability of the legal system to quickly settle false, frivolous and trivial claims without costing both parties a fortune. The problem is not the law itself, but the ability of people with money and full-time legal teams to bludgeon people into submission with dubious claims and the threat of expensive court proceedings. Yes, trolls clearly accusing someone of criminality - especially something sensitive - deserve what they get, but if A. Celeb tries to sue you because someone anonymously posted a petty insult on your blog they shouldn't be allowed to get as far as having their lawyers send you a nastygram.

Don't hold your breath.

Re:Chilling?! (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | about 3 years ago | (#37788862)

So I guess youtube is about to receive over a million lawsuits

Last Post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788036)

Last Post

Tried similiar in South Australia recently (1)

kamikaze_late2party (1881438) | about 3 years ago | (#37788044)

Tried similiar in South Australia recently.

I believe that it got smacked down fairly quickly as the timing was also related to local elections.

People argued that if free political speech is restricted when each comment can be assigned and recorded against your name, people will never say anything for fear of reprisal and that leads to a dishonest discourse.

Libel & slander (1)

tqk (413719) | about 3 years ago | (#37788062)

"You're a pedophile and hurt small chidren!"

"Got any proof of that?"

"Ur, no. But you still are!"

"Okay then. No harm done. You just proved yourself to be an idiot, yes?"

"Uhh ..."

Re:Libel & slander (1)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37788198)

"You're a pedophile and hurt small chidren!"

"Got any proof of that?"

"Ur, no. But you still are!"

"Okay then. No harm done. You just proved yourself to be a former editor of a recently defunct tabloid newspaper [wikipedia.org] , yes?"

"Uhh ..."

FTFY.

Re:Libel & slander (1)

tqk (413719) | about 3 years ago | (#37788284)

FTFY.

Hardly. Try harder.

Re:Libel & slander (4, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | about 3 years ago | (#37788320)

"You're a pedophile and hurt small chidren!"

"Got any proof of that?"

"Ur, no. But you still are!"

"Okay then. No harm done. You just proved yourself to be an idiot, yes?"

"Uhh ..."

Random person on the street:
"tqk is a pedo who hurts small children".

Headline in the Daily Fail:
Mr tqk is a known Paedophile who has done great harm to a great number of children.

Both are lies to be sure but one has the potential to destroy your life the other will be dismissed as insane ramblings.

If your name connected to an accusation of paedophilia is published by a large publisher with readership in the millions would you not be upset. Further more would you not want the publisher punished for this? Libel laws grew to their woeful state because certain publishers began to lie in their headlines to influence the public. When an organisation has the ability to influence what a large number of people think, should they not be held responsible for what they say. It's the old "fire in a crowded theatre" argument, sure, you can yell fire in a crowded theatre but you'll be charged for it because you knew what you were doing was wrong yet did it deliberately.

Libel laws were created to add responsibility to speech, not to take away free speech. They are still needed for this purpose. Exactly how they should fulfil that purpose is a matter of some debate.

Re:Libel & slander (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 3 years ago | (#37788746)

Libel laws were created to add responsibility to speech, not to take away free speech.

I don't care if you agree with libel laws, but it is restricting speech (at least some type of speech). What else is it doing? You're punished in some way (with the help of the government and its laws) for your speech. I don't think that's how free speech works.

Re:Libel & slander (1)

delinear (991444) | about 3 years ago | (#37789200)

The truth is always an absolute defence to a claim of libel or slander. Historically laws/constitutions that protect free speech aren't usually intended to protect known lies.

Re:Libel & slander (1)

Tim C (15259) | about 3 years ago | (#37789206)

Yes it is restricting free speech, but on the other hand you have that whole "pursuit of happiness" thing - that's incompatible with (for example) people being allowed to publicly defame you and incite people to ostracise you (or even attack you, if the claims are bad enough). When two rights potentially conflict like that, one or other of them has to be restricted in the conflicting case(s).

Re:Libel & slander (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788880)

You are comparing printed news to the Internet. The Internet has made it ridiculously easy to check such claims in a matter of minutes. You can research anything with just a few clicks. People on the Internet are becoming more educated. They are also becoming much more sceptical of what they read. Technology and society have evolved to the point where libel laws are no longer needed. And if you take a look around IRL, you will find that they are very rarely used for their claimed purpose.

Re:Libel & slander (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788970)

I thought libel laws were created to protect the reputations of those rich enough to be able to afford lawyers. Their effects on responsibility and freedom of speech are side-effects at most, surely.

Re:Libel & slander (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37789170)

See, the problem is is that THIS kind of "inane rambling" can actually still destroy lives.
It does every year because people know they can use the "pedoscare" as a weapon against people now since it literally has turned in to the new-age witchhunt of our generations.
The slightest mention of pedo to a few people and bam, that persons life is probably wrecked a little, if not completely.
YES, EVEN IF PROVEN INNOCENT.

It is such a messed up world we live in that such nonsense can actually still be used as a weapon.
Happens all the time with other crimes too, such as murder.

You might miss jail, but you'll still have your life wrecked by it to some extent, and that is all the accusers probably care about.

"Chilling" is American jurisprudence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788072)

Europe has freedom of speech, subject to laws and regulations which may be enacted limiting speech.

America has freedom of the press, speech, and by our common law, expression. There are the English 18th century common law exceptions, but they have been diluted.

But only when we're not defending the world from facists, communists, tyrants and terrorists. Oops sorry "warmongering". Beat England, Spain, Italy, the Ottomans, Germany, Austria, Japan, Serbia, Iraq, Aghanistan, ... and are the eminant power in the freeest most peaceful era the world has seen in a while. In 229 years.

And if your going to compare Europe, please keep it real and compare Texas to Romania.

Re:"Chilling" is American jurisprudence (1)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37788222)

Europe has freedom of speech, subject to laws and regulations which may be enacted limiting speech.

Not quite. It's actually subject to laws and regulations which may be enacted limiting speech and which are necessary for the protection of the rights of others or the prevention of crime. A law which arbitrarily limited speech without being reasonably aimed at one of the two above goals would not be allowed under European human rights law.

Re:"Chilling" is American jurisprudence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788356)

Europe has freedom of speech, subject to laws and regulations which may be enacted limiting speech.

That sentence says absolutely nothing.

Europe has freedom to consume beer, subject to laws and regulations which may be enacted limiting beer consumption.

Europe has freedom to walk around naked, subject to laws and regulations which may be enacted limiting nakedness.

Europe has freedom to drive, subject to laws and regulations which may be enacted limiting driving.

4chan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788114)

This is moot and I promise to remove all anonymous comments within an hour or so.

Would this ever be enforced? (1)

dmomo (256005) | about 3 years ago | (#37788390)

Could it be? And if so.. what is exactly being enforced. Things like this are so gray.

Suppose anonymous posting were illegal in the UK. Then suppose I called up a friend in the US, where it is not illegal. I said to him, "Hey, go to this site with your anonymous account, and post this: 'I saw John Graham smoking a big fat dooby"? Would it be illegal for me to call my friend and request this? Maybe that still counts as slander... I mean, unless it were true.

Suppose I post on a website with my full name, but that website decides one day to anonymize all posts? Maybe by simply removing the user name for aesthetic reasons. Is it my responsibility to know this and withdraw the post?

Then we get into the question of "what does it mean to post". Suppose I visit a search engine that shows all recent searches in real time. Then, I search for "Jonathan Graham is a monkey humper".... I was just searching after all. Was that a post?

Re:Would this ever be enforced? (1)

digitig (1056110) | about 3 years ago | (#37788742)

Could it be? And if so.. what is exactly being enforced. Things like this are so gray.

Suppose anonymous posting were illegal in the UK. Then suppose I called up a friend in the US, where it is not illegal. I said to him, "Hey, go to this site with your anonymous account, and post this: 'I saw John Graham smoking a big fat dooby"? Would it be illegal for me to call my friend and request this? Maybe that still counts as slander... I mean, unless it were true.

Suppose I post on a website with my full name, but that website decides one day to anonymize all posts? Maybe by simply removing the user name for aesthetic reasons. Is it my responsibility to know this and withdraw the post?

Then we get into the question of "what does it mean to post". Suppose I visit a search engine that shows all recent searches in real time. Then, I search for "Jonathan Graham is a monkey humper".... I was just searching after all. Was that a post?

I know this is /. so nobody reads the articles, but you might at least read the summary. Nobody is proposing making anonymous posting illegal.

This is an anonymous posting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788444)

Silence the opposing voice is a "new" trend.

Here is a clip called 'Killing Gaddafi easy cover-up for West deals'. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhtXbUYbDls

Essentially it says that even if killing Qaddafi/Khaddafii/Gaddafi was a good thing that few object to, it also is an easy way out, no matter who held the gun.

This means that Qaddafi/Khaddafii/Gaddafi cannot tell in court all or any of the details of the deals behind closed doors that have taken place with many of the western countries. Here is just one of several articles describing such recent deals - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/18/british-energy-companies-investment-libya

This is an anonymous posting. I don't want to be killed for linking to public information. Still, the relevant authorities probably know my identity anyhow, quite easily.

Its too late for me :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788492)

I received a legal letter today from a manufacturer of a product that was unhappy about comments made about their product. We are based in Australia, and it is very sad what is happening. We offer a place for people to exchange views on products as a by product of discussing other things on our forum. This is the second time that he has threatened us with legal action. I complied and removed all mention of his product as per his wish but left a post about the posts being deleted due to legal action. Well, the letter came today. He is making a range of accusations and basically wants to stop all mention of his product. It is very intimidating for a website with virtually no revenue, so we are left to ponder what our next move is. Remove all posts, or get a lawyer to go through the posts, and publish the non defamatory posts and see where it settles, but the risks and the costs of defending peoples rights to discuss a product are very high. I have met some of the users of the product and there are some issues with it I believe, but I think he may just be able to silence any unhappy reviews.

Re:Its too late for me :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788602)

What's his product and/or the manufacturers name?
I'm willing to open a website dedicated to reviews of that product out of spite.

Yes it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37788806)

Sorry to say that but you should have seen this will come. The internet today is a big legal minefield. If you are building a website with no revenue, then you should consider staying anonymous yourself. Of course it's not easy but you can read up on how it's done. But this means that it's almost impossible to extract money from your site. Still if they don't know you they can't sue you.

As for your current problems, I suggest you contact the EFF, they provide free legal advice in such cases.

Re:Its too late for me :( (1)

ledow (319597) | about 3 years ago | (#37789208)

You'll probably find that by complying the first few times, you've pretty much stymied any chance of defending yourself legally. It's almost an admission: "They deleted it when asked, your honour, which means they must have known it was defamatory and yet they won't delete the other comments we've pointed out to them".

What you should have done is just sent back an email saying "Posters on this forum take responsibility for what they post and even retain copyright of it. If you believe something posted to be infringing a law, please file a court order to require me to identify the poster, or delete specific posts, and I will be happy to do so."

You're basically being held responsible for other people's posts, so offer to identify them so they can be forced to remove the post. And you're under no obligation to NOT mention a company at all. There's nothing in law that stops you saying "X threatened to sue over this post, so I've taken this post off", where X is a private individual or company and not a law enforcement entity, unless you receive a court ORDER about that.

Personally, in the same position, I'd probably have deleted the posts too, but when they start threatening silly things, I'd have just enlarged the "I've been sued" text one point size per email / letter / threat received from them until I received some sort of court order to remove that reference.

It is not libellous or defamatory to post a fact.

Good luck with that tourism thing (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 3 years ago | (#37789166)

when everyone's afraid of being prosecuted for libel when they visit your country.

Would this apply in Scotland? (1)

lastx33 (2097770) | about 3 years ago | (#37789184)

If such legislation is passed in England it will be interesting to see if the UK government uses the Supreme Court to force it upon Scotland also. Otherwise would sites have to differentiate the geographical location of the poster to determine whether Scottish or English law applied?
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