Defamation on the Internet: an analytical study of defamation law and the Internet in England and Wales: 1996 to 2009
thesisposted on 21.06.2010, 07:40 by Philip Rhodes
For many decades, defamation law in England in Wales has predominantly only had to deal with material that has been published via printed publications, radio and television. As such, defamation law has been tailored to best suit these media. Since the introduction of the Internet, defamation law has been tested to its limits with a number of commentators arguing that it is not equipped to deal with the uniqueness of the online publications. Consequently, Internet service providers, content hosts and Internet users are all at risk of being held as the publisher and being sued for defamation, potentially, anywhere in the world, even if they had no prior knowledge of the material in question. Previous research regarding the Internet and defamation has been scarce. This research has set out to gain a greater understanding of the problems facing Internet service providers and the threats to freedom of expression on the Internet caused by defamation law, procedures and practice. This has been achieved by conducting an indepth desk research of academic text, press commentary and case law followed by interviews with Internet service providers, content hosts and lawyers with an expertise of defamation. Initial assumptions were that defamation law, procedures and practice was threatening freedom of expression on the Internet. This proved to be correct and of great concern to the Internet publishing community. It was also found that defamation law procedure and practice was in many cases efficient in the removal of alleged defamatory (Internet based) material and in its attempt to restore a person s reputation. It has been concluded that parts of defamation law in England and Wales could be revised to improve the preservation of freedom of expression on the Internet. Furthermore, current defamation law coupled with defamation procedures and practice are leaving Internet publishers vulnerable to vexatious claims of defamation. There is also evidence to suggest that conditional fee agreements used within defamation legal practice are becoming more popular for defamation cases and consequently, threatening freedom of expression on the Internet. Finally, Internet defamation cases and disputes are becoming a greater part of a defamation lawyer's practice and in some practices becoming more popular than traditional printed libel cases. It is for this reason that the results, conclusions and recommendations of this research are of a timely nature and of significant importance to the field of Internet publishing.
- Information Science