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Parliamentary report calls for crackdown on anonymous posts


By John Glenday, Reporter

October 21, 2011 | 2 min read

Websites which host comments from anonymous users should be given legal protection against lawsuits – if they react swiftly to remove posts which draw complaint - according to a new parliamentary report.

It calls for unattributed comments made under a pseudonym to be treated as not “true, reliable or trustworthy,” with websites forced to identify authors and publish complaints alongside contentious remarks to escape legal action.

If the author reveals their identity they can then be sued for defamation, or the courts can issue a “takedown” order for the comment at pain of libel proceedings against the host.

Dubbed a “notice and takedown procedure”, it is designed to provide a rapid resolution to defamation cases without recourse to the courts.

Under current legislation websites often immediately remove a controversial comment when they receive a complaint to avoid legal liability - a situation which has led to many “entirely legitimate” comments being removed.

The report is designed to offer greater protection to scientists and academics writing in peer reviewed journals and reduce the high cost of libel actions.

It is also geared toward reducing “mischievous and malicious” anonymous posts which “may encourage free speech but also discourage responsibility”.


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