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British libel reforms push ISPs to out Internet trolls

June 12th, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Anonymous trolls in the United Kingdom may have to think twice before calling someone a “n00b” or “teh sux0r” online. That’s because the U.K. House of Commons this week will start a debate on reforms to British libel law that will provide incentives for Internet Service Providers to reveal the identities of online posters accused of libelous and defamatory speech, The Guardian reports. To be fair, The Guardian says that the plaintiff in the libel cases does have to show that they have “suffered serious harm to their reputations, or are likely to do so, before they can take a defamation case forward,” so the average Internet troll won’t likely be affected.

“As the law stands, individuals can be the subject of scurrilous rumor and allegation on the web with little meaningful remedy against the person responsible,” said U.K. justice secretary Kenneth Clarke. “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 defense against libel as long as they comply with a procedure to help identify the authors of allegedly defamatory material.”

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