As part of a joint Parliamentary committee’s analysis of its draft defamation Bill, it is being proposed that ISPs and other websites act as an intermediary between the defamer and the defamee. Basically the ISP would be required to pass correspondence between the disagreeing parties as they try to resolve their dispute. From our perspective, we believe this is horribly naive and highly likely to fail.
First, for true defamation (rather than just an upset client), then the defamer is not only going to ignore the messages but will probably enjoy them; i.e., they will take pleasure in the distress they are causing. The whole reason for anyone to attack online is to bring harm to the victim and cause distress to either the person or the entity, by bringing unwanted comments on top of that would expand the problem not control it.
Secondly, given the large volume of defamation (and perceived defamation) this is ongoing in cyber space; each ISP will have a heavy work load in handling this communication between parties. Remember, every business that has received a “bad” review, legitimate or not, will likely be passing messages to the volume will be off the charts.
This proposal also takes on an even more negative twist. It goes on to say that “If after an initial exchange of correspondence the issue remained in dispute, the intermediary would be required to provide details of the author to the complainant, who would then have to initiate legal proceedings against him or her to secure removal of the material.
This would be the end to freedom of speech anonymously. Suppose you write a review (legit). Then company’s big bad attorney wants to quash that review claiming “defamatory”. Once they have your name, even if not defamatory, then they can put lots of pressure on you to remove.
Is this what we want to have happen on the web?