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Defamation law should get to anonymous bloggers

  • August 20th, 2009

I think our courts would do what has just been done in a US court  and order the unmasking of an anonymous blogger dedicated to falsely vilifying an unfortunate model.

Defamation law works for us all if it upholds a reasonable expectation that personally damaging public utterances will not be lies. We all have a stake in reputation mattering. We have to keep cranking up formal punishments or turn to private punishments if there is little consequence for conduct that should shame, or earn praise.  Privacy law’s attempt to abolish reputation has coincided with despair about the ineffectiveness of much of our law, and growing incivility.

Civilised jurisdictions depend on people being concerned about their reputations, on there being deterrent consequences to a bad reputation and incentive consequences to a good reputation.

But we need a balance if the threat of unmerited but terrifyingly expensive defamation action is not to leave vigorous comment to people on the margins, those with nothing to lose. Public comment has been unleashed by the internet to prick pomposity, and to undermine those who would keep the truth to anointed insiders. It should not be warped by defamation law.

Once again I think of the proposal I developed into a draft Bill to supplement our Defamation Act so that tactical or gagging writs would require the issuer to be ready to compensate their targets if they do not sustain their complaint.

The same principle should be the constraint on abuse by the owners of copyright, of whatever is finally adopted in place of s 92A

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  • Peter
  • August 21st, 2009
  • 11:44 am

The extent of potentially defamatory material is so huge that defamation has almost lost its meaning in the environment. Also consider the number of blogs, groups, forums that are out there.

Great theory, difficult in practice.

However, I think any forum owner that presides over material that is defamatory on a sustained basis – that is the person who should be in a gun. They are effectively inciting it.

  • peterquixote
  • August 21st, 2009
  • 8:04 pm

yeah come out of the farm Stephen,
sue us for incorrect thoughts

  • jetafiz
  • August 22nd, 2009
  • 12:52 am




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