Internet trolls targeted in new bill to tackle defamation online
Major reforms of the libel laws will see a duty placed on internet service providers to try to identify internet trolls without victims needing to resort to costly legal action.
Websites will also be given greater protection from being sued if they help to identify those posting defamatory messages, under government plans.
The defamation bill, which will be debated in the Commons on Tuesday, will also see would-be claimants having to show they have suffered serious harm to their reputations, or are likely to do so, before they can take a defamation case forward.
The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said: "As the law stands, individuals can be the subject of scurrilous rumour and allegation on the web with little meaningful remedy against the person responsible.
"Website operators are in principle liable as publishers for everything that appears on their sites, even though the content is often determined by users.
"But most operators are not in a position to know whether the material posted is defamatory or not and very often – faced with a complaint – they will immediately remove material.
"Our proposed approach will mean that website operators have a defence against libel as long as they comply with a procedure to help identify the authors of allegedly defamatory material."
He went on: "The government wants a libel regime for the internet that makes it possible for people to protect their reputations effectively but also ensures that information online can't be easily censored by casual threats of litigation against website operators.
"It will be very important to ensure that these measures do not inadvertently expose genuine whistleblowers, and we are committed to getting the detail right to minimise this risk."
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New York, United States