EU report mulls changes to current laissez faire online comments moderation rules

ct

Media websites’ legal protection for user-generated content on message boards could be under threat.

They currently rely on the EU Electronic Commerce Directive (ECD) to protect from them from the legal consequences of libel and other breaches of the law committed by their website users.

They are usually safe from legal action, provided they do not moderate the content, and take down offensive posts quickly if they receive a complaint.

However, this system may be under threat from the European Commission (EC), following publication of a report titled A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe.

The report considers the need for new measures to tackle illegal internet content, and ‘rigorous’ procedures for removing it. These include a discussion on … “whether to require intermediaries to exercise greater responsibility and due diligence in the way they manage their networks and systems – a duty of care.”

If website operators are given a duty of care over their content, then the days of unmoderated contributions and the ‘report and remove’ system could be over.

The EC concluded a consultation on the report in December 2015. The preliminary findings can be found here.

The EC will publish a final report later this year.

This issue is one of several threats discussed in my new book, Online Law for Journalists, which was published this week. It is the only book on the UK market that focuses exclusively on the laws and regulatory codes that affect journalists working online and on social media.

The book is practical and up to date, and includes sections on message boards, security, hyperlinks, the right to be forgotten, and online abuse.

You can buy a copy here

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law

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