UK & World News
Websites Will Be Forced To Identify Trolls
Websites will be legally obliged to provide victims with the identity of people who post abusive and defamatory online messages about them under plans by the Government.
Major reforms of the libel laws will also see internet service providers (ISPs) given greater protection from being sued if they help to identify so-called trolls.
Would-be claimants will have to show they have suffered serious harm to their reputations, or are likely to do so, before they can take a defamation case forward.
It comes after a mother who was targeted by online trolls won backing from the High Court to have her tormentors' identities disclosed.
Nicola Brookes faced "vicious and depraved" abuse on Facebook after she posted a comment supporting former X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza when he left the show last year.
The Defamation Bill was debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Sky News political correspondent Glen Oglaza said the reforms have widespread support across the parties, so the Bill should make its progress through Parliament pretty quickly.
"What they're saying is, enough is enough of this cyber-bullying and abuse that's going on, on websites like Twitter and Facebook," he said.
"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."
The power to ask for anonymous identities to be revealed are intended to give individuals an avenue of redress should they be subject to defamatory comments online.
The idea is to enable people to approach 'offenders' and seek out-of-court settlements or other mediated resolutions.
But Scott Freeman, who set up the charity Cybersmile when his daughter became a victim of trolls, said these reforms do not go far enough.
"It needs to be a criminal offence, there needs to be legislation covering cyber-bullying. It's no good with civil lawsuits," he told Sky News.
"It needs to be addressed. It's one in three children now throughout the UK [who experience cyber-bullying], and it's affecting adults. It's terrible and civil lawsuits are not enough. They're unrealistic."
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said the Government wants a libel regime for the internet that makes it possible for people to protect their reputations but also ensures that information online cannot be easily censored.
"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."
He added: "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."
Frank Zimmerman narrowly escaped jail when a judge suspended a 26-week prison sentence for two years after he sent a threatening email to Conservative MP Louise Mensch.
The 60-year-old posed as a member of online hacking group Anonymous and sent the mother-of-three an email telling her she would have to choose which one of her children would die.
In another case, 21-year-old student Liam Stacey, from Pontypridd in South Wales, was jailed for 56 days for mocking Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he collapsed with a heart attack.
The Bill will also replace the common law defences of justification and fair comment with new statutory defences of truth and honest opinion.
The so-called Reynolds defence of responsible journalism published in the public interest also gets statutory recognition, as responsible publication on a matter of public interest.
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what do you think?
Man up people its a scary world out there lol
Good, people should not be able to hide behind anonymous online characters. Whistle blowers will have to be protected though, by the new law. Lets hope in brings an end to the sick and perverted comments people leave on tribute pages, as that must be distressing for family and friends.
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Good ! Trolls are cowards who would never be brave enough to tell you something to your face . . . Bout time they were held to account
Good news, this should stop people who have lost loved ones suffering more distress. Please also note that:- "The so-called Reynolds defence of responsible journalism published in the public interest also gets statutory recognition, as responsible publication on a matter of public interest." may also stop "Wikileaks" publishing inane rubbish that nobody cares about and pssibly harmful items that could put peoples lives in danger.
Not before time - I would even be in favour of the more vicious types of trolling being made a criminal offence. While I'm firmly in the "sticks and stones" camp and shrug off abuse, I have been sickened by some of the mindless and deliberately hurtful comments that get posted. Its why I now refuse to use social networking sites...I simply don't want to share the same cyberspace as these lowlifes.
Agreed. I set up a Facebook account but never go there - it's full of people I know in real life who seem to refer to me as "H*n" and similar and behave very differently to how they do in "real" life! The whole thing seems very low-rent and tacky now. I wasn't allowed to post the word "h*n" - "u" is missing!
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They were intended to be methods of communicating, exchanging news, opinions etc. not bullying and generally moronic behaviour...simple as that. While some of us can stand up for ourselves, not everyone is capable of dealing with abuse...and they shouldn't have to.
All very well but !! can such a law be enforced ?
Not a clue - I'm glad I don't have to come up with a strategy!
Hang on, isnt bullying when you use your superior strength/resources to enforce your will on another? This so-called cyber bullying can easily be ignored or reported to the site as abusive behaviour. When does it stop just "being moronic" and become bullying? That said, I agree with the approach, there are some sensitive souls out there that need protection. There are only so many trolls I can defend the internet from with my superior wit :)
Still looking for an example of your superior wit Mike and will continue the search. Please don't report me for abuse!.
Well said Mike.
Ha ha ha! Nicely put!
What superior wit?
What superior wit
Bullying used to be someone bigger than you punching you, now it is sad individuals posting snide comments.
Indeed! Just watch what is said in here for some fine examples!
Windows Live User
Will this stop us all from venting our anger at our stupid politicians? We all feel better after a pop at these goons.
There's nothing like a quick pop at the goons!
I am often surprised by the filth and abuse people can sometimes spout while hiding behind the computer keyboard, especially on Facebook and its ilk. Most of the "bullying" or falling out I see at work and have to sort out is usually down to online meanness and so something needs to be done. I suppose blaming Facebook etc. for abuse people post on it is a bit like blaming the scrap of paper on which you might have written a cruel message, but they created it to be viewed publicly and so must take some responsibility. Sadly, many use these sites crassly and ultimately the blame should lie with them. Horrid beasties!
Facebook would do well to take a leaf out of Oranges book and not allow the fourl letter words that some posts are littered with.
What happens if the cyber bully is from abroad... whats the legal standing for this?
The free speach we have was gained through thousands of years of terrible battles. Cities have been demolished by tanks, millions of civilians have been slaughtered. Ancient battlefields were full of armies bombarding each other with gigantic boulders and chopping each other with gigantic chopping weapons. People have been mustard gassed, bombarded from the sky, burned with flame throwers, tortured and stood on exploding mines, even to this day, so that we can all have the right to say what we think. If you ban people saying whatever they like on an internet page, they will just say it, shout it, write it or print it somewhere else. Whether anyone likes what they have to say or not, they'll still get the message across, somehow. Another possibility might be, people will be too afraid to post messages, causing websites to close? ...
So Mike Williams tells us he is a "superior wit", Perhaps he meant "twit". I wouldn't begrudge him that.
what are the boundries ? for instance: would someone calling a poster, who had expressed her valid opinion in a reasonable way, a "stupid woman" be classed as cyber bullying ? If so, then who is thekarmechanic ?