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How will new ‘Trolling’ laws affect brands online?

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
12 June 2012

New legislation being proposed by the government could see an end to the practice of Internet trolling, it is being reported today.

Under the planned legal changes, sites like Facebook would be forced to reveal the IP address of anybody accused of abuse, libel or defamation – provided a legal case has been made.

In a “you scratch my back” move, the change will also work in favour of the websites in question – by complying with the request they will free themselves from any risk of being caught up in the ensuing case.

Under the current system, sites like Facebook risk being included in legal cases such as libel – in legal terms, every “hit” on an offending page can count as another count of abuse – so the current solution is for sites to remove the content as soon as they are notified. Whilst this might sound like a good solution, in practice it results in a lot of mis-reported content being deleted, just so the sites can err on the side of caution.

The subject of Internet trolling has been a hot topic in the UK for most of the year – just this week a new video by comedienne Isabel Fay bought the subject to the fore once more. You can watch the video below – though the language used is probably a little NSFW:

So what will the new law mean for you as a site owner/brand? Well for starters it means any form of “UGC” (user-generated content) on your site will now almost-certainly fall under this new remit – so you need to be prepared to manage any requests if they come.

As a brand using social media channels such as Facebook, your social media presences should be covered by the terms of the platform itself – but it’s still worth familiarising yourself with the new legislation, when it is finalised.

Whilst using a site such as Facebook should protect you from getting caught up in cases such as these, negative situations on Facebook seem to have a habit of spiralling out if control very quickly – so having good community management in place on your social profiles is paramount. After all, even if you’re protected from the might of the law, muck has a nasty habit of sticking to more than just the people throwing it – you only need to look at the way the media report stories of trolling or abuse to see how keen they are to name-check brands or personalities who might have been involved.

As always, our main advice is to ensure you’re fully educated on the law that applies to you, and make sure you know what people are saying – not just about you, but in places that have your name on them!

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