There is an interesting article in today's Business Day dealing with this question. It points out - as I have done elsewhere - that the ordinary laws of defamation applies to those who slander others on the Internet but that it would not always be possible to find those people when they act anonymously. Normally one would then be able to go after the company who facilitated the publishing of the alleged defamatory statements, but this is more difficult on the Internet.
The article points towards section 75 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002 , which protects service providers who host Blogs and websites from defamation suits.
The section states that such a service provider is not liable for damages arising from data stored at the request of the recipient of the service, as long as the service provider:
- does not have actual knowledge that the content of the Blog is defamatory; or
- is not aware of what is written on the Blog at all; and
- immediately removes the material or disables access to a Blog once the service provider receives a notice from an aggrieved party about the defamatory statements.
At the same time the section is helpful because it prevents pre-publication censorship. This leaves the Blogosphere relatively free and unregulated because it does not require service providers to act as policemen of the content of Blogs or websites that they host.
We can continue to write what we like until some pesky politician or judge gets upset and sends a removal notice. We can then alert the rest of the Blogosphere and the mainstream media and draw attention to the alleged defamatory remarks. This will almost always backfire and may well result in more harm to the person complaining, than if he or she had just let sleeping dogs lie. Maybe that is why they call the Blogosphere a democratic space?