Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has asked for evidence on the Defamation Bill, so I’ve sent in a Janet submission pointing out the human rights issues that could be raised by the Bill. Although the aims of the provisions on websites are to increase the protection of free speech while ensuring that genuinely defamatory statements are dealt with quickly, it’s not clear from the current draft that this will be achieved. In particular
- Website operators need to be sure of the circumstances when they can rely on the defence that the statement was posted by someone who can be “identified”;
- The process for dealing with complaints about statements whose posters cannot be identified must not create a greater risk to the privacy rights of both alleged defamers and (since the process may well be misused) of those who are the subject of unwarranted complaints; and
- A website operator who wishes (or is required by law, as for universities and colleges) to promote free speech must be able to leave a posting up until it has been considered by a judicial authority, without risking liability as under the present notice and takedown regime.