Spy Blog welcomes most of the long overdue changes to the libel law brought in by the Defamation Act 2013, which has now come into force on 1st January 2014.
- Defamation Act 2013
- Statutory Instrument 2013 No. 3028: The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013
- UPDATE 2nd Jan 2014 - The Ministry of Justice has published some useless Defamation Act 2013 - Guidance and FAQs on Section 5 Regulations in (.pdf) format
However, the evil Defamation Act 2013 section 5 Operators of websites
is totally unacceptable to those of us who offer pseudo-anonymous or anonymous publication and comment, as per our and our contributors, fundamental human right of free speech.
Supposedly the new Defamation Act section 1 has raised the threshold for libel actions to "serious harm", but that is unlikely to reduce the number of frivolous or intimidatory threats of expensive legal action by the rich or the mentally unbalanced or by those with a political agenda.
However, whilst section 5 imposes all sorts of duties on website Operators and Posters of content, it assumes no possible malicious intent by Complainants. There are no penalties for a Complainant who fails to provide enough information in a Notice nor for failing to provide genuine name and address contact details or who lies about not having sufficient details to sue a Poster for defamation.
It appears that a Complainant can attempt to censor a blog article or comment and have it taken down "within 48 hours" (excluding weekends and public holidays) without actually proving any reasonable case as to why this should be done, especially if the author or poster cannot be contacted by the website Operator.
There is no time limit on this censorship, so long as a complainant pretends that they are just contemplating a libel case at some indeterminate time in the future. i.e. censorship within 48 hours even if it never goes to court !
Neither does this stupid law acknowledge the real life experience of blog operators. Some of the Complainants may turn out to be "sock puppets" and to have posted the controversial comments themselves (or to have caused their friends, allies or underlings to do so) in order to harass and try to bring the entire blog offline for political or other malicious reasons.
There are no penalties for collusion between anonymous blog comment posters and Complainants.
Spy Blog is usually amenable to a civilised email (ideally using our public GPG Public Encryption Key) or public blog comment correcting an error of fact or asking for a redaction of personal information (which is very rarely published in the first place, except for a few non-threatening details of public figures).
Therefore, be warned, anyone who is stupid enough to attempt to use the Defamation Act 2013 section 5 Notice against Spy Blog which seeks to remove the new protections which apply to every other form of publishing, will have to comply with our website policy and our interpretation of the unfair law and complicated Regulations:
1) Spy Blog will not accept any alleged section 5 Notices from automated "lawyer bot" systems as brought into disrepute by the dire example of US DMCA takedown notices. N.B. More than 2 electronic threats will be treated as a criminal offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1977 and will be reported to the Police.
2) Spy Blog will not accept any alleged section 5 Notices from lawyers or any other third parties claiming to act on behalf of a client - the Act and the Regulations (perhaps stupidly) only mention a Complainant, therefore he or she is the only person who can submit a section 5 Notice for consideration. Any such correspondence from shysters will be published, especially if it attempts to impose illegal secrecy conditions.
3) All such section 5 Notices must include, as per the Act and Regulations, the Complainant's Name and Email Address details and exactly what is being complained about and where on the website the allegedly libellous article or comment is located.
4) Any section 5 Notices which do not comply in full, will be rejected - as per the Regulations & Guidance, we do not have to state why.
5) Any section 5 Notices, including faulty, rejected ones, are liable to be published in full, including the Complainant's alleged Name and Email details and any other metadata e.g. DNS resolved IP addresses, on this or other blogs or websites.
N.B. there is nothing in the Act to prevent this, only some vague crap about giving the Complainant the option of telling the Operator not to pass on such details to the Poster, but only if the Operator has some sort of private electronic communications channel to the Poster (unlikely for anonymous Posters). There are no penalties for non-compliance under the Act, which stupidly seems to assume that all websites require people to truthfully Register with them before publishing anything.
6) Anybody stupid or malicious enough to try to censor Spy Blog will be told to confirm that they understand what the Streisand Effect is and that they understand the words "the Net treats censorship as damage and routes around it"
In practice, for most bloggers and self publishers on the internet, the supposed section 5 "defence" against a libel action is no such thing and is unlikely to ever be used.
A legal defence can only be tested in Court, by which time it is too late for those of us on a zero or limited budget - even one day's legal costs far exceeds the typical blog hosting budget for a whole year, so it is more likely that Spy Blog would be forced offline by the threat of legal costs, regardless of the fact that we would "win" in Court,