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June 13, 2012

Websites may be forced to identify trolls under new law

New government proposals want to force Internet Service providers to identify people who have posted offensive or threatening messages online.

By Tineka Smith

Website trolls

The new proposal means that victims of insults online could take action against people responsible without having to rely on police or the High Court.

Websites will be able to try and resolve issues between a dispute about malicious comments, but if unsuccessful websites will then have to cooperate with identifying anonymous trolls so the victims can take legal action.

The move for identifying trolls could also goes against the Defamation Bill, which attempts to support and strengthen freedom of speech on the web.

"The timing of the Government’s steps on defamation are surprising since at least some of what Leveson reports on, later this year, may impact the Defamation Bill," says Marc Dautlich, Information law expert at Pinsent Masons. "As to the specific measures proposed on trolls, what they do not explain is how whistleblowers with legitimate concerns to report will be distinguished and protected from those posting abuse, who will rightly find themselves more easily identifiable under the new measures by the targets of their attacks."

The new proposal comes after Nicola Brookes, a British woman, won a court order last week which ordered Facebook to give the names, email, and IP addresses of users who harassed her on the social website.

"With regards to the Nicola Brookes case the difference with this order is that it has been made against a social media platform and not simply an ISP," says Dautlich. "The risk here is in terms of the richness of information that Facebook collects and in the future may be asked to reveal. It means that law enforcement agencies can now attempt to access all sorts of details about individuals to support enforcement measures."

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Please follow this author on Twitter @Tineka_S or comment below.

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