Can the law cope with libel online?

CIPR’s Profile Extra has an interesting article on libel online. Jo Sanders highlights a recent case where a court ordered Tracey Williams to pay £10,000 for falsely alleging that former United Kingdom Independence Party parliamentary candidate Michael Keith-Smith was a Nazi, in her anonymous contributions to an internet discussion group.

But I am not convinced by how easy the article makes it sound to actually identify the person responsible for anonymous attacks.

With so many free blog, chat and forum sites it is unlikely that credit card details can be used to track down culprits. Even an ISP address is pretty easy to hide – take a look at Torpark. That doesn’t mean with persistence it isn’t possible to track an anonymous attacker down, but it isn’t that easy and will be harder and harder if the numbers multiply.

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2 Replies to “Can the law cope with libel online?

  1. The piece is rather optimistic. It's true that UK based ISPs fold very easily, but many blogs (e.g. anyone on Blogspot or Typepad) are hosted abroad.

    (Perhaps I should declare an interest; I've engaged Jo Sanders to defend me against a threat to sue for defamation.)

  2. I agree that it probably wouldn't be as easy to track down a single user as that article suggests. But I think if someone does post negative things about you or your business on the Internet, then you should vigorously defend yourself. These days it's very important to control your online image, so if pressing a libel claim is what it takes, then go for it.

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