By Eszter Tarnai
A review to change defamation law in Scotland has been launched by the Government today. The aim is to keep up with the ever-changing world of social media in the 21st century.
Damaging an individual’s reputation through false communication, or defamation is a growing concern in Scotland, especially online, with the growing popularity of social media. According to Community Safety Minister Ash Denham, who is launching the review, it is time for a change.
Defamation does not only concern journalists, but with the use of social media, or even just words, anyone can easily be a victim. Here are two examples from the past:
The Minister said “Defamation law potentially affects everyone and it is crucial that we ensure the law is fit for modern Scotland.
“The enormous growth in the use of social media presents new challenges and means that defamatory communication is becoming increasingly instant and common.”
In a 2017 survey, conducted by the European Commission, 86 per cent of those asked answered ‘Totally agree’ or ‘Tend to agree’ to the question: “Do you believe the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime is increasing?”
Ash Denham added, “It is crucial that we strike the right balance between the two values that often pull in opposing directions – freedom of expression and the protection of an individual’s reputation.”
In her Ministerial Foreword, she said: “Reputation is a component of the right to private life, and it forms the basis of the law of defamation. It is an integral and important part of the dignity of the individual, and helps to inform many decisions in a democratic society which are fundamental to its well-being.”
You can read the full foreword here.
The consultation consists of questions the Government is looking for the public to answer.
The Community Safety Minister said: “Consultation is an essential part of the process and members of the public have an important part to play in reforming the law on defamation and ensuring it is fit for the future.”
Members of the public are invited to join in the conversation until the 5th of April. By filling in the questionnaire, you can make a difference. Have your say here.
The consultation is looking to get the views of the public on a number of issues regarding defamation, including the three year time limit of defamation claims, the threshold of ‘serious harm’ and action against unjustified legal threats of defamation.
Watch this short video for more information on the consultation:
You can also get involved on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, using the hashtag #DefamationScotland.
The review has been launched following a report by the Scottish Law Commission from last year. The Commission then made 49 recommendations to modernise and simplify legislation on defamation. The full report is available to read here.
The Commission also has a YouTube channel, where you can find out more about defamation in the Scots law. You can have a look here.