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Question

10. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way she will address defamation of persons which occurs online; her views on amending the law to allow for defamation cases online to be dealt with in a more-cost effective and timely manner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6990/15]

Answer

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: As the Deputy is aware, the law on defamation in the State was reformed in the Defamation Act 2009. It is important to say the Act draws no distinction between online, print or broadcast media and provides for a number of remedies. The primary relief under the Act is an award of damages with a jury deciding the amount to be awarded if the defamation action is successful. Either nominal or compensatory damages can be awarded. Given the nature of online defamation, the priority for the plaintiff might be to have the defamatory statement removed. Under section 33 of the 2009 Act, a plaintiff may seek a court order prohibiting the publication or further publication of a defamatory statement. Injunctions are an important remedy in responding to online defamation.
As the Deputy knows, the print media are regulated by the independent Press Council of Ireland which was granted recognition under the Act. The complaints system operated by the Press Council provides a useful, efficient and cost free remedy for members of the public who are affected in the way the Deputy described.
The e-commerce directive, Council Directive (EC) 2000/31, which comes within the remit of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, sets down a number of provisions regarding the duties and obligations of website providers, including to remove potentially defamatory material when notified. There is now evidence of a trend across Europe of courts imposing greater responsibility on online service providers for user-generated online content.
Recently, I held a meeting in Farmleigh House with all of the Internet service providers in this country to discuss their responsibilities, how we can work with them and what legislation is needed, if more is needed, to deal with the online issues which are increasingly a feature of our lives. These companies are taking a huge range of initiatives to ensure personal online safety and they are interrupting criminal material when posted online. We see this, in particular, in the area of child sexual abuse online which, sadly, is a growing feature of online activity.