Defamation in Cyber Space – Liability of Web Hosts and Internet Service Providers for Defamation

Today, Internet is the fastest means of international communication of not only text, but also images, sound, and videos. The websites that display information of all types are proliferating. These websites are controlled and established by ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

These sites can easily be accessed through appropriate search engines that can trace and display information to cater requirements of searcher. There are numerous features unique to internet that distinguishes it from any other medium. These features have therefore led to current re-examination of current laws related to defamation.

A domain name or hosting provider normally isn’t considered to be liable for the defamatory content presented on the relevant domain name or the website. However, in certain circumstances, the web hosting provider may be liable for defamation.

If you are still not aware about meaning of defamation, let us first know what exactly it is. Well, defamation is nothing but an act of destroying good online reputation of any individual or business. One of the Acts states that no user or provider of interactive computer service can be treated as speaker or publisher of the information offered by another content provider. However, there are some cases where this act doesn’t apply.

How the hosting providers can be liable for defamatory content?

In some cases, the web hosting providers may be liable for anything hosted on their network. If web hosting company is being informed continuously about violating the content and refuses to take it down, the web hosting firm isn’t immune from the lawsuit. This can be a real concern for web hosting providers as well as the users.

Now, how can one know that some content on their network violates anyone’s trademark or copyright? There is a great responsibility on the web hosting companies to reasonably and responsibly monitor the content on their network and to ensure taking the defamatory or violating content down.

Apart from the author of the defamatory content that is published on Internet can liable for the defamation, the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and other such intermediaries like administrator, manager, and provider of website can be held liable for the defamation too. Since user anonymity is one of the most common norms especially in the internet forums, ISPs or any other intermediaries can be attractive defendants since they can easily be identifiable and are perceived to have deeper pockets.

Defense of the Innocent Dissemination

The defense can be relied upon by the subordinate distributors of the slandered material like ISPs and other such internet intermediaries to escape the liability in case the following things may be established.

  • No knowledge that document contains libel that is complained of
  • No knowledge that document had a character to contain libel
  • Want of knowledge wasn’t as a result of any negligence

If you are in search of web hosting or domain name services, make sure to do proper research before you make final decision. Get armed with appropriate knowledge about the lawsuit concerning defamation.

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