Facebook, Yahoo, AOL UK, Mumsnet and the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) have written an open letter to David Cameron calling for “urgent reform” of UK libel laws to better protect free speech online.
In the letter, part of the Libel Reform Campaign, the group appeals for the prime minister to update the current UK legislation, describing it as having a “disproportionate, chilling effect” on writers and web hosts.
“The libel laws have not been updated to address the rise of online publication. The current multiple publication rule, dating back to 1849, defines every download as a publication and a potential new cause of action,” the letter reads.
The group also calls for the government’s upcoming draft libel reform bill - expected to be finished in the new year - to include better protection for discussion on the internet.
Nicholas Lansman, Secretary-General of the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), said: "ISPs are currently in a position where they may have to decide what bears defamatory meaning, putting the intermediary in a position of judge and jury over content.”
“We therefore support the call for an innocent dissemination defence, that ISPs should only be forced to remove defamatory material that has been decreed defamatory by a court or competent authority, and to bring libel law into the twenty-first century through the creation of a single publication rule."