Defamation reform for the social media age
The internet and social media allow everyone to communicate more easily and more widely than ever before. However, Scotland’s defamation laws do not reflect the way in which information can be circulated to a mass audience at the click of a button.
The Scottish Law Commission has today published its Report recommending reform of defamation law in Scotland in a bid to reflect the increased use of the internet and social media.
The draft Bill is the most substantial proposed reform of defamation law in Scottish legal history.
The Report makes 49 recommendations in total and contains a draft Bill putting those recommendations into effect. The recommendations include:
- It should no longer be possible to sue where a defamatory statement is made only to the person who is the subject of it and no one else. This recognises that in such cases there cannot realistically be any damage to reputation.
- Where a statement has not caused serious harm to reputation there should be no right to sue. This is to prevent defamation actions being used as a weapon by the rich and powerful to try to silence unwelcome criticism.
- A defence of publication on a matter of public interest should be recognised. This is important for investigative journalism.
- The current three-year time limit to raise an action should be reduced to one year. Where there has been genuine damage to reputation this should become clear quickly.
- A new ‘single publication’ rule will ensure that the time limit for bringing a claim does not start afresh each time the same statement is downloaded by a new search on the internet.
Further information on the Scottish Law Commission’s Report can be found here.