Protect living people from libel and slander on the internet.

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The old laws about freedom of speech need to be updated for the internet era. In the past, the worst that could happen was to be libeled in a newspaper, whose owners, editor and journalists can be identified and ultimately prosecuted. Also a newspaper is by its nature ephemeral, most copies being thrown way very quickly and such scandal dies down. The same applies to TV or radio. But libel on the internet is permanent and can appear in search engines globally in a way that was simply not possible with newspapers, TV and radio. Most of it is done by anonymous people who are not answerable, cannot be made to appear in any court, and cannot be traced. The tiny handful of unelected people who write websites such as Wikipedia or RationalWiki have a huge power far out of proportion in a democracy. These websites pretend to be works of reference but are in fact highly biased, slanted and often vehicles for sheer defamation. So the old laws are inadequate. Internet slander can cause great pain and suffering not only to the individual but also to their family. The quantity of the articles is such that no courts could possibly deal with all the complaints, and bringing a libel case is always slow difficult and expensive. If somebody’s reputation is ruined and they cannot work, they have to live on state benefits, so this is not in the public interest. If somebody has a criminal record, the law says this can be erased or hidden after a certain number of years to enable them to start again and find work. Yet, there is no time limit on internet abuse and libel. It is permanent.

We call for a law enabling people who have not committed any crime to have articles naming them removed from the internet. If a person holds public office, or is standing for public office, they should still be able to get articles removed when they no longer hold or are running for the position. If necessary, an individual should be able to get their name as a search term completely removed from all search engines.

The law should be that living persons should be able to opt out of inclusion in these so-called reference works, just as they can with printed works.


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