Wednesday, 19 February 2014

@clionakimber - Law struggling to keep pace with changes to social media

In an article that focused on heavily on civil wrongs and the civil liabilities of Internet users, barrister Clíona Kimber (@clionakimber) calls for new internet laws and for Internet service providers to take a proactive role in patrolling the online world. She said:
"It can be libellous to communicate in social media, including to tweet or re-tweet, a false statement which harms someone’s reputation. Likewise, if social media is used to publish private information about an individual it could give rise to a potential privacy claim. In both instances, it is possible to seek an injunction and damages. 
This is specialist litigation, and the courts are having to develop new approaches to deal with the speed and ubiquity of internet defamation. Some providers, although based in Ireland, raise jurisdictional issues essentially, maintaining any litigation must be commenced in California. An added complication is that the perpetrator of abuse – who more often than not will have posted under a false identity and/or using more the one account – has to be identified before action can be taken. Victims can get the civil courts to reveal the identity of the user by getting a Norwich Pharmacal Order."
Clíona continued:
"While the remedies of defamation, injunctions and Norwich Pharmacal Orders are of some assistance, the current legal tools are arguably not enough. Law is struggling to keep pace with changes to social media and, while new laws requiring social media sites to identify users engaging in online abuse are being considered, in the absence of such legislation providers are facing increasing pressure to take a pro-active stance in dealing with such abuse."
On how Internet service providers should react, Clíona said:
"There is clearly a balance to strike in terms of how social media sites should deal with abusive users. ISPs take the view it would be practically impossible to monitor all communications. An overbroad regulation would be a blow to free speech and the very appeal of social media if users were being prevented from communicating freely. 
However, it seems clear that social media providers can and should do more to prevent the transmission of harmful material. Many have rights under its own policies to take a wide range of actions against those who breach their rules. Even if there is little that can be done stop the abuse at the time, providers could take swifter action by removing content and disclosing that person’s details to comply with a law, regulation or legal request or to protect the safety of another user."
The original article in the Irish Times was published on February 17 here. On February 18 Clíona spok at a breakfast seminar on social media litigation in the Fitzwilliam Hotel. Other speakers include Pauline Walley SC, Andy Harbison of Grant Thornton and barrister Rithika Moore Vaderaa.

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