Just for a moment, pretend that you are a 40 year old contractor looking for work. Now pretend that while surfing the internet for Job openings, you find an article about yourself. You then realize that this particular article is the sole reason that you have not been able to find work for the past few months. This article falsely states that you are an incompetent workman, and have little experience in your field. Believe it or not, the person responsible for publishing such an article can actually be sued for something called defamation, which is covered in the Libel & Slander Act.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone’s reputation, and published “with fault,” meaning as a result of negligence or malice. ” However, there are many proven defenses that can be be used when faced with a defamation lawsuit. The most recently created defense is dubbed “the public interest defense”. The defense states that if a matter is of public interest, then one has the privilege to report it.
Nevertheless, it is unclear whether the defense is allowed to be used retaining to online defamation. Because of the activist atmosphere of the internet, lack of editing for private publications, and simplicity of posting online, the defense should not be permitted for use by private publications such as blobs. However, online press publications should have the privilege of the defense, considering that there are many news organizations which are solely available online, and many tangible publications digitize their articles. The Press” shall be defined as: online instances of any tangible medium publication, or any publication which has more Han one writer on staff, its own URL, articles which must go under formal editorial review, and host writers who are qualified in a relevant expertise/field. The reason for the aforementioned, is that people who publish articles by themselves on personal blobs and websites, are generally able to include personal opinions etc. Without any review or verification attempts on behalf of the publication, as the nature of the publications allows them to do so.
Defamation is a problem which has increased greatly in recent years, due to the rise in popularity of the internet. Up until the past people of decades, only certain people were enabled to publish their own opinions, which often had to be put through strict editing processes before shown to the public. The internet has abolished this principle, allowing almost anyone to publish information (or lack thereof) for millions of people to see worldwide. As the Saskatoon Phoenix puts it “Only established media outlets used to have to worry; now everybody does”. Due to the aforementioned, publications on the internet need to be more controlled.
In the landmark Barrack Gold v Elephantine case, in which the defendant ousted defamatory messages on many websites relating to the company’s operations, the court figured that the messages would not be taken seriously, as the messages were not grammatically correct, and had personal opinions and random capitals. As stated by an appeal Judge communication via the Internet is instantaneous, seamless, inter-active, blunt, borderless and far-reaching. It is also impersonal, and the anonymous nature of such communications may itself create a greater risk that the defamatory remarks are believed. In the McElroy v. Copper-Smith and Woodman case, it was decided that “the attendants’ mental stability unneeded t credibility of the person; the outcome was that “no reasonable businessman would be likely to be affected in his dealings with [the plaintiffs] by statements coming from [that] source. ” Obviously when a comment is made on the internet, no one knows the source of that comment, and therefore the credibility of a person cannot be determined. Such, is why the general public should not be able to use such defense: to discourage them from posting in the first place.
The world has survived by hearing the sole opinions of professional Journalists for centuries, without having to receive information from others, and therefore the general public can continue doing so in the future. The general public do not have a Journalism degree, and most people have very poor Judgment when it comes to posting online. Obviously it can be concluded that they should not be encouraged to do so via the use of the public interest defense. Additionally, people on personal websites can lie about credentials, making it even more difficult for the average person to discern what is actually fact compared to personal opinion.
In conclusion, because of the anonymous nature, and countersigning which can occur when posting information online, the general public should not have access to the public interest defense in regards to electronic defamation. In this day and age, newspapers are becoming obsolete, being replaced by the instantaneous updates provided by online news sources. These online sources encompass the same high level of reporting and editing quality that tangible medium publications are able to. So one could ask the question as to why would online publications be subject to different laws than tangible ones? They should not be.
Period. Robert Earthman, Q. C. Backs up this point by simply stating “It shouldn’t make a difference if a publication is on the internet or otherwise-they are both the exact same except for the medium” . To begin with, many online publications are simply digitized versions of those printed. Many instances of tangible medium publications publish digitized versions in addition to their primary product. For example, when publishing an article, the Toronto Star uses the exact same piece for usage both online and in palpable form. According to the Canadian Bar Association, “Journalists have some immunity to the law.
If news was urgent, serious, of public importance, or used a reliable source, and tried to report [the] other side of the story, then a reporter is, on a general basis, able to defend themselves against a defamation law suit. ” So if an online report falls into one of these categories, shouldn’t a reporter be able to protect their own self? Many credible articles are published solely online, on websites such as trinitrotoluene. Com and counterarguments. Org. Obviously these online only news sources are Just as credible as tangible medium ones, and therefore should have the privilege of using he same defenses as such.
Online only publications are written by Journalists – the same ones who write tangible medium ones. Furthermore, the Merriam Webster Dictionary sates that a Journalist is “a person engaged in Journalism; especially: a writer or editor for a news medium”. Obviously this simple definition can be applied to those who write for digital news agencies. During the landmark Grant v Tartar case, the Judge concluded that the reporter did everything he should have done when creating his report, but Grant did not want to comment on his side of the story, which was his own choosing.
The Judge allowed the reporter the use of the public interest detente, knowing that the article was published on the internet as well . In conclusion, online publications are Just as reputable as tangible medium publications, and therefore should still be allowed the use of the Public Interest defense. Due to the fact that people are able to publish opinionated statements with no grounds, and call them the truth, and the ability to lie about credentials on the World Wide Web, private websites such as blobs should not be permitted the use of the public interest defense.
During the Randall v Which case, a Judge dismissed the charges, and stated the following: “considerations which militate in favor of a moderate award include the fact that “[t]he [defamatory] allegations are so lacking in substance and detail that most people would be inclined to dismiss them as the outpourings off malcontent. ” The Judge realized that the defamer had made such a dumb allegation, “lacking substance and detail” and therefore granted a mild award to the defamed. This outcome Just goes to prove the amount of nonsense that people are able to post on the internet, as their publications are not edited.
For example, if Morgan Animism was developing a subdivision, and one was to simply post a statement saying that “Morgan Animism killed rabbits to develop houses”, the defamer should not be allowed to argue such, as public interest- it simply wastes the court’s time. On another note, the credibility of internet speech poses a huge problem for all. Readers are unlikely to discount credibility of internet speech, even if it is anonymous. People feel like they can post without consequence, as the intent is “anonymous”. As online messages are able to encompass so many grammatical, spelling, etc. Ross as they are vastly unedited, they can lead to huge misunderstandings between what the original author intended to write, and what an average person would deduce. Additionally, people online tend to write things as fast as possible, ignoring incorrect facts, grammar, etc. For example, the meaning of a sentence could be completely changed by misspelling words such as “they’re” and “their”. In summation, due to the fact that the Internet allows freedom to publish with no prior approval or consent, and that people are able to post utterly ridiculous statements, private publishers should not be allowed to use the public interest offense.
Contrary to all which is mentioned above, people may state that the defense should not be available for use when dealing with online defamation, as traditional news sources are either in print, on the radio, or on the television. The fact of the matter is that many more people are receiving their news online nowadays, and evidently traditional print newspapers and broadcasts are becoming less and less popular. The internet is the medium which people in the 21st century are turning to for mass communication, and laws should be adjusted to suit such changes.
Additionally, people may say that the defense should be available for anyone online, provided that the person has the proper grounds and evidence if possible. As long as the guidelines for the defense are followed, it should not make a difference who the defense is used by, whether the defamation be online or otherwise. For example, sometimes individuals publish things which publishing entities cannot get their hands on, and should therefore have a defense in case of being sued for defamation.
With the amount of news sources publishing articles on a regular basis, and with the technology available in today’s day and age, it is next to impossible to not have a way to contact said agencies. With the amount of nonsense, and credibility issues that the online community is taxed wit , woo be a lot easier for the public and Justice systems, if one was to simply submit their information to a valid source, where it could be thoroughly researched by experienced and qualified persons.
Ultimately, since the Internet is becoming such an important tool in everyday life, and how easy it is to contact a news source with today’s technology, official online publishing entities should have the right to use the public interest defense. In conclusion, because of how effortless it is for private publications to post completely opinionated, made-up stories and dub them as the truth on the internet, personal publications should not be allowed the privilege of using the public interest defense.
On the contrary, since there are many trusted publications which circulate solely on the internet, and the fact that many major news outlets post their stories on the internet, “press publications” (as defined above), should be allowed use of the defense. As online publications are still valid publications, they should still be treated s such in the eyes of the law. As there are many privileges given to Journalists in relation to public interest defenses, and the definition of a “Journalist” covers those who are employed by online news mediums, they should be entitled to the same privilege as those employed by tangible publications.
As such a large amount of individuals have access to publishing on the WWW, compared to tangible medium publications, it needs to be more controlled, and one way to do so is by restricting the use of the defense solely to professional Journalists. Additionally, due to the activist atmosphere of the internet, the amount of misunderstanding through online mediums, and lack of editing, private publications should not be permitted use of the defense.
In reality, defamation law plays a huge role in daily life. People need to be educated in relation to online defamation especially, considering that so many youngsters are online, and do not tend to think about the consequences when posting defamatory statements on social networking websites. Specifically in regards to the public interest defense, whether it can be used online can make a huge impact, considering the amount of online publications in this day and age.