People’s opinions about being defamed over the internet are changing. Its clear people are getting sick of tough talking keyboard jockeys who defame others and use the internet to do so, with little regard to the law. I agree that the internet has changed communication forever and that is great, however we all have a responsibility to keep our comments in line with the law.
A case in the Queensland Supreme court has handed down a verdict ordering Google to hand over information on people who made anonymous comments that have been alleged to be defamatory. In the past, most people would not have bothered going to the expense of following up such an issue. This is a timely process, it involves specialist and it all costs money. But as the internet grows in importance and the number of instances stack up, I don’t blame people for getting sick of reading untrue comments about themselves and deciding to take action.
Any case where Google is involved always gets headlines, however this is a bigger issue. Free speech and the ability to make comment is something we all deserve. Sure, I personally cop the fallout from my opinion on that, however I encourage debate on my opinions and am thankful that the bulk of comments I receive follow that line. There is a difference between debate and defamation, and most of us are aware of that line.
Remember, the comments you make online are mostly going to remain forever. However the digital traces that you leave when making those comments are also going to remain for just as long. ‘Use a proxy and you will be fine’, I read online as a solution for guaranteed anonymity. I suppose that means that you can go out and say whatever you like and that would be fine? How many people know how to navigate via proxy, covering their tracks so that their movements are truly anonymous? Not many. Isn’t it easier just to form your comments so that they are forming debate and don’t fall into being defamation?
Free comment is great, it forms ideas and challenges people to think differently. However we all have responsibility to keep those comments within the laws that we all live under and now it seems, if we don’t there could be a civil case made arguing that what you said is a breach of that.