Iain Dale has a story about possible Government proposals to change the law with regard to bloggers and libel. Bridget Prentice apparently wants to make it easier to sue bloggers for what they say and, crucially, what commenters to their site say.
To my mind, libel law should be the same whatever the medium. If something defamatory is published online, it should be as actionable as if it is written in, say, Private Eye. The difference comes in assessing damages and small scale bloggers should not be punished too heavily - especially if the defamation came in the form of a comment which they removed as soon as it was pointed out to them.
I can't be the only one who gets a bit fed up with Guido's comments section. I would heartily recommend some form of registration for the big sites. My site allows free comments because I get so few. I remove the defamatory ones asap and also those advertising dodgy financial services. If I started getting more then I should think I would move to a registration system fairly quickly.
Perhaps as soon as they get a serious libel suit the bloggers might stop their willy waving over the number of site visits they get. Proving you get more readers than a national newspaper will only up your damages.
At first sight, the proposal to introduce a small claims style system for libel can only be good news. Libel actions at the moment are not the even contest they should be. A Russian oligarch, for example, can bully many small publishers and bloggers into submission. For very small instances of possible libel, it should be possible to resolve matters in front of a judge for little or no costs and without specialist libel lawyers leeching every penny from both sides.