Trolls, a uniquely 21st-century phenomenon, have always enjoyed the privilege of anonymity. Abusive internet users have been allowed to hide behind made-up usernames while they went about trolling whom, when and where they please. That’s about to stop, in Britain at least.
The move comes after a British woman, Nicola Brookes, won the support of the High Court earlier in the week to have her online tormentors identified. The reforms, which fall under the Defamation Bill, have already received much support and will be discussed at the House of Commons today.
“[T]he reforms have widespread support across the parties, so the Bill should make its progress through Parliament pretty quickly.”
Until now claimants have had no avenue to pursue their would be offenders, and would have to face online ridicule without remorse.
“What they’re saying is, enough is enough of this cyber-bullying and abuse that’s going on, on websites like Twitter and Facebook,
“It’s a difficult position because although in theory Facebook and Twitter are the publishers in a way that books and newspapers, and for that matter television companies are, they don’t have the same amount of control over what appears and therefore, it’s more difficult to prosecute them and sue them for libel because in some ways, they’re not responsible,” said Sky News political correspondent Glen Oglaza.
The reforms will also give internet service providers (ISPs) greater protection from prosecution.
Speaking for the government, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said that they are looking to find a balance that will allow users to protect their reputation and will also protect information from quick and easy censorship.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
The overarching idea is that people who have been offended will be able to seek out their tormentors and come to an out-of-court agreement or some form of mediated solution. Of course there are those who believe that this is not stern enough and that trolling should become a criminal offence with the applicable punishment.
“It needs to be a criminal offence, there needs to be legislation covering cyber-bullying. It’s no good with civil lawsuits,” said a father whose child was a victim of cyber-bullying.
Alternatively, parents could raise their children not to be douchebags. There is also always the option of not reading the offensive comments.
[Source: Sky News]
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