Track on fundamental rights, freedoms and liability on the Internet
Chairs: Clara Marsan Raventós. Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC)
Defamation on the Internet has become quite an extended practice. What are the limits to freedom of expression vs. the right to honour? And what are the limits of the right to honour vs. freedom of expression?
There is a difference between illicit content — which is against the law — and harmful content, which may damage your reputation while being completely legal.
Some elements are aggravating the problem of harming one’s honour: the high volume of digital content, anonymity and trolling, advertising in websites (i.e. not requiring login for being able to post content), who can access the content, etc.
Most of the law is aimed at protecting the ISP while the citizen remains unprotected. There should be an effort in trying to define better the limits of the right to honour and freedom of expression, when and how regulation applies and, most especially, how do we protect the individual.
Primavera De Filippi, Smári McCarthy
Cloud Computing: Legal Issues in Centralized Architectures
Cloud computing has had a side effect in personal communications: when most of them used to be peer-to-peer through a decentralized service (most times a desktop and one’s own server), now many communications have shifted to public and into centralized services.
Most users do not know how to read the terms of service or would just not read them. Thus, they think they are getting services for free while they are giving away many of their rights.
Another side effect is the lock-in that happens once you’ve got your data and content out in the cloud, and can but just manage it remotely, not massively and with serious concerns whether this content still is your property.
We cannot only rely on national law when it comes to the Internet, but international agreements do not seem to do better. So, what should be done?
The first thing that one has to demonstrate defamation is that the statement made is opinion and not fact, and that is has been exaggerated.
But on the Internet it also depends on other aspects. For instance, the blog were the statement is made and the use of the language (i.e. some words do not any more refer to the original definition of that word, but have become slang with different meanings).
So, many supposed libels or defamations are not such when looked under a different glass.
Indeed, disclosing the anonymity of the “defamators” can sometimes be much more harming that the supposed defamation they committed.
Mª Dolores Palacios González
The stress between impunity in the Net and limiting freedom of expression
There are many examples where anonymous contributors to blogs or forums insult third parties, including individuals, governments and firms. ISPs usually have the safe harbour that most Internet laws provide according to which they have no liability on such harmful comments and statements in general. Though the problem still exist: there are harmful comments on many websites.
But some exceptions should be made, or at least some issues taken into consideration.
For instance, if there is comment moderation, the act of editing and/or approving the comment with defaming statements should not be protected with the safe harbour for ISPs.
The Lisboa treaty shifts “upwards” many of the decisions related to crime and cyberlaw, resulting in a top-down approach to penal law in the member states. There is, though, the right to veto a directive, and also the principle of subsidiarity. Cybercrime is included within this new framework.