Defamation Bill Targets Trolls

Parliament will today be debating a defamation bill which seeks to reform existing libel laws and will put ISPs under a duty to help identify internet trolls. The move is aimed at preventing unnecessary suffering by victims and avoiding legal costs associated with commencing action. In putting forward the proposals, the Government is aiming to strike a balance between allowing victims to take action and preventing content hosts facing questionable threats of litigation.

Under the proposals in their current form, websites hosting defamatory content will be afforded greater protection if they can demonstrate they have taken steps to identify trolls. The Internet Service Providers Association welcomed the proposals, stating that ISPs are not best placed to decide whether content is defamatory. The bill has been well received by ISPs, which is unsurprising seeing as they will be cushioned from legal action if they assist with efforts to identify those posting defamatory content online.

Privacy campaigners, however, have adopted a far more cautious outlook on the matter, with many voicing fears that the age of online anonymity, at least in Britain, may be at an end. Index on Censorship was one such group to raise concerns over the proposal, saying it hoped the new system would be voluntary.

Whilst many will be glad to know the law is taking steps to protect against trolling, the fact remains that it is a complex problem. The most determined trolls with little or no regard for the law and who possess the technical know how will still be able to take steps to prevent themselves being traced by ISPs and other bodies.

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