Supreme Court of Canada rules authors are not liable for providing links to websites containing defamatory content
A joint parliamentary committee (JPC) has said that there should be protection for websites that act quickly to remove anonymous postings that prompt a complaint.
The BBC reported that the committee wants a "cultural shift" so that posts under pseudonyms are not considered "true, reliable or trustworthy". The committee also wants legal protection for those websites that identify authors and publish complaints alongside comments should get legal protection.
The recommendations come after the joint committee of MPs and peers examined the draft defamation bill.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that authors are not liable for providing links to websites that contain defamatory material.
The decision comes as a huge relief for online publishers, as other common law countries are struggling with online defamation cases.
The Canada Supreme Court said in its decision, "Hyperlinks are, in essence, references, which are fundamentally different from other acts of "publication". Hyperlinks and references both communicate that something exists, but do not, by themselves, communicate its content.
"They both require some act on the part of a third party before he or she gains access to the content. The fact that access to that content is far easier with hyperlinks than with footnotes does not change the reality that a hyperlink, by itself, is content neutral."
The decision continued, "Furthermore, inserting a hyperlink into a text gives the author no control over the content in the secondary article to which he or she has linked."
"A hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as "publication" of the content to which it refers. When a person follows a hyperlink to a secondary source that contains defamatory words, the actual creator or poster of the defamatory words in the secondary material is the person who is publishing the libel," said the court.
However, the court also said that the content can be considered to be "published" by the hyperlinker when a hyperlinker presents content from the hyperlinked material in a way that actually repeats the defamatory content.
The court also said that the number of "hits" on the article itself was an insufficient basis for drawing an inference in this case that a third party had read the defamatory words.