Issuing a take-down notice under the Defamation Act 1996

The United Kingdom currently has one of the most restrictive free speech legal frameworks in the world. The Defamation Acts of 1996 and 2013 provide that if a website owner, known as a systems operator (or sysop) , does not remove content they have been told is defamatory, or provide the contact details of the person who posted the content, then they are at risk of being made to pay damages for defamation.

While this has the advantage that people who have abusive and untrue things said about them can easily ‘bluff’ the sysops and get the content removed, it means some complaints about content which is true could get removed, as happens with those customers of Heart Internet Ltd.

The Trollface by DeviantArt user named Whynne. (c) 2008 Thomas John.

The document below shows a partially ‘successful’ attempt at getting defamatory content removed from the Internet. This website posted claims that I tried to get a website closed down. This was untrue, as all I had asked was for content about me which was untrue to be removed. As you can see in the letter I sent below, I ironically say the website hosts should shut the website down if the sysop does not remove the content! I don’t think the sysop, Mike Slocombe saw the ironic side of this! By using the trollface symbol, which you can see in the bottom right of the letter (and pictured above right), this signifies that the letter contains trolling content. This ‘trollface’ has become a common mark used to signify Internet trolling.

If you do find untrue content about you on the Internet, then for as long as the Defamation Act 1996 is in force you could use this letter as a model for how to get the content removed. You should take independent legal advice first though. The changes brought in by the Defamation Act 2013 have not been reflected in this letter, but that Act does not change the fundamental principle that sysops are equally liable for defamatory content on their websites as the people posting it, it simply offers a defence against a claim for defamation if they provide the contact details of the person whose conduct is alleged to be defamatory.

Trolling of Mike Slocombe – How to instigate a take down notice

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