Defamation Reform amendments protect free expression online

In 2017 the Scottish Law Commission proposed reforming the law of Defamation in Scotland, updating a law that had been untouched since 1996.

Open Rights Group has been contributing to the various consultations, ensuring that freedom of expression online in Scotland is protected.

Making Scots Defamation law fit for the digital age

We are fighting alongside other organisations in Scotland for key reforms:

  • Restrict the liability of internet intermediaries to prevent immediate and pre-emptive takedowns.
  • Maintain fairness for disputed material, where the defamatory nature is yet to be determined.
  • Limit the time for which a statement can be claimed to be defamatory.

So far we have:

  • Responded to the Scottish Law Commission’s proposal.
  • Contributed to Scottish Government’s public consultation
  • Contributed to the Justice Committee’s scrutiny of the Bill
  • Held events to help the public contribute to the Government’s public consultation

The Bill proposes to give courts the power to order a website operator, on an interim basis, to remove a statement before a decision is taken on whether the statement is defamatory. We are concerned that this could lead to courts ordering pre-emptive content takedowns.

We are currently working on ways to build safeguards into this power, in a way that will better balance the right to freedom of expression with the need to fairly protect reputations, in a way which will ultimately modernise defamation law in Scotland for the better.

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The Story So Far

One final push to modernise defamation law in Scotland

Today, the Defamation and Malicious Publications (Scotland) Bill will be debated and voted into law by the Scottish Parliament.
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