Websites to be forced to identify trolls under new measures

Websites will soon be forced to identify people who have posted defamatory messages online.

New government proposals say victims have a right to know who is behind malicious messages without the need for costly legal battles.

The powers will be balanced by measures to prevent false claims in order to get material removed.

But Privacy International, an organisation that campaigns at an international level on privacy issues, says that there is a concern that "gun-shy website operators will start automatically divulging user details the moment someone alleges defamation in order to shield themselves from libel actions".

Last week, a British woman won a court order forcing Facebook to identify users who had harassed her.

Nicola Brookes had been falsely branded a paedophile and drug dealer by users - known as trolls - on Facebook.

Facebook, which did not contest the order, will now reveal the IP addresses of people who had abused her so she can prosecute them.

The new powers, to be added to the Defamation Bill, would make this process far less time-consuming and costly, the government said.

Complying with requests would afford the website greater protection from being sued in the event of a defamation claim.

The new rules would apply to all websites - regardless of where they are hosted - but the claimant would need to be able to show that the UK was the right place to bring the action.

End to 'scurrilous rumour'
Currently, in legal terms, every website "hit" - visit - on a defamatory article can be counted as a separate offence.

This means many websites remove articles as soon as a defamation claim is made - either rightly or wrongly.


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