New legislation is to be introduced by government ministers in a bid to force internet service providers to share the identities of individuals engaged in ‘trolling’ behaviour to their victims.
The Defamation Bill is intended to give more power to the victims of such crimes, enabling them to take action against their abusers without the need to go to court.
It will also waive punishments against websites which host abusive comments if they collaborate in helping to out users engaged in inappropriate behaviour.
In separate legislation the government will also seek to tone down England’s notoriously tough libel laws by removing a rule that counts each individual website ‘hit’ as a separate offence.
A one year limit on archive articles will also be introduced.
Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, said: “Individuals can be the subject of scurrilous rumour and allegation on the web with little meaningful remedy against the person responsible. Website operators are in principle liable as publishers for everything on their sites.
“Our proposed approach will mean that website operators have a defence against libel as long as they identify the authors of allegedly defamatory material when requested by a complainant.
“The Government wants a libel regime for the internet that makes it possible for people to protect their reputations but also ensures that information online can’t be easily censored.”