Libel online

Interesting story this one – a company Gentoo successfully wins £100,000 in libel damages after an internet site was set up to, it appears, harass and smear the company.

What’s quite interesting are the comments from Gentoo’s Chief Executive, Peter Walls, and his brief:

“There is no doubt that the internet can be a fantastic tool for good but we urgently need legal change to enable victims of internet abuse to have a quicker and more effective route to justice.”


“It is difficult to see how the government can legislate effectively in this area because technology moves faster than the courts and there are always new technical loopholes to exploit.

“But one option may be to develop the remit of the Press Complaints Commission, or develop a voluntary code of conduct so that at least reputable websites can distinguish themselves from the rogue ones by signing up to the code as a badge of credibility.”

This case is another example of our libel laws, regardless of what you think of them, needing to be updated to take in the internet, even if there is a growing amount of case law, although not all of it is consistent, especially in how alleged libels in print and online are dealt with.The first two comments also seem a bit muddled. Technology is moving quickly online but abuse and libel still remain abuse and libel. If you’re going to change the law you need to sit down dispassionately and see where the discrepancies lie between online and offline and if they need bringing into line with each other.

A code of conduct may help in the eyes of the law, but given how toothless the PCC are in enforcing offline complaints, it’s doubtful anybody would take any notice of them. Assuming its even within their jurisdiction. How on earth it would work with a libel on an anonymous blog, I’ve no idea. As for accuracy…

Yes quite.


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