Mohamed Ali Saeh, “Online Defamation and Intermediaries’ Liability: International”

Mohamed Ali Saeh (Queensland University of Technology – Faculty of Law) has posted “Online Defamation and Intermediaries’ Liability: International”. The abstract reads:

The Internet technology and the increasing popular World Wide Web have brought enormous benefits to our lives, with their emphasis on free and easy communication. It has become simple for people to buy books, make electronic payment for tickets or goods and even work online. Additionally, information can now be shared a more expedient way amongst a greater number of individuals than even before. As a consequence of this technological advance, it often becomes impossible to identify the source of material made available online and whether that material is subject to copyright infringement, trade mark infringement, and online defamation or is an obscene publication.

In recent years, the Internet technology and the increasing popular World Wide Web have brought enormous benefits to our lives, with their emphasis on free and easy communication. It has become simple for people to buy books, make electronic payment for tickets or goods and even work online. Additionally, information can now be shared a more expedient way amongst a greater number of individuals than even before. As a consequence of this technological advance, it often becomes impossible to identify the source of material made available online and whether that material is subject to copyright infringement, trade mark infringement, and online defamation or is an obscene publication.

According to the article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, “everyone has the right to freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and import information and ideas though any media regardless of frontiers.” This right is known as “Freedom of expression”. Furthermore, the United Nations, Human Rights Commission expressed that the internet should be used “not only as a means of exchanging and disseminating information, but as a tool to improve the enjoyment of human rights such as freedom of expression”

Although the internet facilitates quick communications between people, it also provides an opportunity for dishonest users to do lasting damage to another’s reputation. This cyber damage not occurs on a wide scale, but also in the inexpensive and most expedient way. As it has been said “sticks and stones can break your bones and even words can hurt you.” The Cyber defamation is intentional infringement to another person’s right to his or her good name. As this type of offence occurs on the internet, it can be seen, heard or read on computers by millions of users worldwide. The victim may be subject to immeasurable moral damage because the information might be incorrect and people might believe it. Therefore, the question raised hear is to determine who is responsible for this online offence such as uploading a file or pictures that contain a defamatory material or sending emails contain such material. Of course, the primary publishers who disseminate the defamatory material will be liable, such as senders of an e-mail messages or web site content providers. However, the issue here is the potential responsibility of the mediator. For instance, Internet service providers (ISPs) and bulletin board operators should be held liable in certain circumstances, because they are able to remove or block offending material. Most countries have attempted to apply and adjust their existing domestic laws to extend to online defamation. However, the issue of potential liability of intermediaries, especially in so far as online defamation is concerned, will require legislative and jurisdictional cooperation to find clear and effective solutions.

Download a pdf copy of the paper via SSRN here.

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