Section 5 Defamation Act 2013

Section 5 Defamation Act 2013

The Defamation Act 2013 (“the Act”) received Royal Assent on the 25th April 2013 becoming law on the 1st January 2014. Of significant note in the Act is Section 5 Defamation Act 2013 relating to website operators/hosts in respect of their liability for any online material which is defamatory under The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013 which also became law on the 1st January 2014 and which sets out a procedure for giving notice and removing posts online

 Section 5 Defamation Act 2013

“(1)This section applies where an action for defamation is brought against the operator of a website in respect of a statement posted on the website.

 (2)It is a defence for the operator to show that it was not the operator who posted the statement on the website.

(3)The defence is defeated if the claimant shows that—

 (a)it was not possible for the claimant to identify the person who posted the statement,

 (b)the claimant gave the operator a notice of complaint in relation to the statement, and

 (c)the operator failed to respond to the notice of complaint in accordance with any provision contained in regulations.”

The Regulations are explained further in the Guidance note “Guidance on Section 5 of the Defamation Act 2013 And Regulations” which are issued by the Ministry of Justice.

The Regulations and S.5 of the Act lay down the information that has to be included in the notice and the length of time by which each side has to reply and in what manner they should do so  together with a procedure to handle those frequently posting online and/or offenders.

Overall, all sides have 48 hrs. excluding non-working days, to reply to any notices or responses.  The person posting the comments online has 5 days upon receiving notification by the operator/hosts  of the website.  If that person is unable to be contacted or they do not reply to the notice, then the postings are removed.  However, if the person who posted the material objects to it being removed then they can ,if they wish, release their particulars to the operator of the website who is then able to pass them on to the person making the complaint.

On the other hand the person posting the comments can refuse to release their details, whereupon their right to privacy must be acknowledged leaving the person complaining being left in a position of being unable to identify the person posting the comment or to make  a claim against the website operator host if the posting remains on line. Further they would have to make application to the Court for an Order to force the website operator to reveal the person who posted the online comment and reveal all their details to the complainant.


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