School of Electronics and Computer Science
Faculty of Physical Sciences and
University of Southampton
Speech and Defamation
Personal tutor: Mahesan Niranjan
A report submitted for the award of
“I am aware of the
requirements of good academic practice, and the potential penalties for any
I would like to thank…….
Why Freedom of Speech is needed. 7
Many of us are familiar
with tales of individuals being arrested because of a flippant post to twitter,
or pursued in court for damages because of sarcastic (and perhaps ill advised)
comments on high profile figures subject to journalistic investigation.
Legislation exists to protect individuals’ freedom of expression, and to
support civil claims of defamation.
Prepare and produce a
technical report which introduces the topics of Freedom of Speech and Defamation.
The report should point out the responsibilities of individuals and
organisations in respect of this type of legislation. You should consider all
sorts of publications and communications online. You should also identify ways
in which ‘owners’ of websites and blogs are bound to ensure that they protect
their sites from malicious hacking; being used as a platform for publishing
‘rogue’ views and messages.
This report provides an introduction into the topics of
Freedom of Speech and Defamation. These legislations are of great importance since
the rise of social media and they provide the balance between freedom and hate;
without one of them then the legislation would be imbalanced and could be
Due to the laws being on the opposite side of the spectrum,
there is a clear confliction between Freedom of Speech and Defamation which is
why there needs to be a balance between them.
Reporters and organisations, such as Facebook, need to take
the greatest care when expressing their freedom of speech. This is because they
have a much bigger reach than most individuals. Ensuring their expressions are
valid and do not directly or indirectly damage others will prevent a defamation
suit. Portraying fake news can lead to disasters such as the manipulation of
Website and blog owners need to ensure they take the correct
security approaches to prevent malicious hacking which can be used to portray
rogue ideologies and messages which could be harmful to others, whether it’s
hating on someone or defaming a competitor.
This report makes this conclusions,
The internet may be very young
but it can still be abused quite easily. Certain laws are required to ensure
that good people don’t get arrested for expressing their freedom of speech.
Other laws such as defamation laws are required to ensure that people don’t
misuse their freedom of speech by causing damage to other people. “Currently, a
person suing for defamation does not have to prove the words they are
complaining about” (BBC (2012) New Defamation Bill ‘to protect freedom of
speech’) which is the main reason for a defamation law; it protects
people who use their freedom of speech, as well as making sure that the law
doesn’t get abused.
Blog and website owners must
make sure that their sites are protected. This is because if their sites get a
lot of traffic then they may be at risk of malicious hacking which can lead to
‘rogue’ views being published. The biggest risk of being online is the ability
to express your views without the need of a real-life conversation. An example
of this is the Qatar state news agency being hacked to provide a fake story which
provided controversial comments. It “quoted Qatar emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad
Al Thani as calling Iran an “Islamic power””
(The Telegraph (2017) Qatar news
hacked). Considering that this region is in political turmoil,
hackings such as this are a huge deal as they can easily manipulate people.
With the recent repeal of net
neutrality, freedom of speech is at risk of being controlled by ISPs. This can
lead to the Freedom of Speech legislation being weakened by this act which can
lead to mass manipulation.
Why Freedom of
Speech is needed
Freedom of Speech is very important
when it comes to the real world, without it women may never have been allowed
to vote. However, it is also important on the internet. Our lifestyles are
heavily invested in the online world which means that people need the ability
to express themselves in any way they wish. This is where the law comes in.
Freedom of speech is the right given to
a person to express their opinions without the government restricting their
views. It may seem like this law allows people to say absolutely anything they
wish, however that is not true due to the law having restrictions when it comes
to hate speech, slander and defamation.
On the other hand, what happens when
the President of the United States expresses his thoughts, such as a recent
tweet made my Donald Trump, which stated he had a much more powerful Nuclear
Button than Kim Jong Un and that it works. Although what he says doesn’t
violate any current laws, many see it
as unacceptable behaviour which can lead to even worse relations between these
There needs to be a clear balance
between the freedom of speech law and the defamation law. What happens when one
party feels they are expressing their accurate views and the other party feels
that they have been defamed? This is what happened between a famous youtuber
and a bar.
How can Freedom of Speech be restricted? (Ricky Banks vs Barley House)
After an eventful night out, Ricky decided
to describe his view of the event through a video which was viewed by millions.
His fans retaliated to the bar by sending death threats and creating false
reviews on the bar’s social media pages. This led to the bar creating their own
video and then getting a “temporary
restraining order that also orders Violet, Banks and anyone in “active
concert” with them to stop “cyber-bullying and cyber-attack
campaigns” against the Barley House.” (Cleveland
(2017) Judge orders YouTube stars Alissa Violet, Ricky ‘FaZe’ Banks, to cease ‘cyber-bullying
campaign’ against Cleveland bar)
stopped the YouTube star from replying to the video made by the bar which is a
clear violation of the Freedom of Speech law, which shows that people can be
silenced from saying their view.
Why the Defamation law is needed
The defamation law protects people and
organisations from damaging comments from people whom think that they are fully
protected by the Freedom of Speech law.
An example of this sort of abuse is when
an article claimed that Katie Holmes was a drug addict. This story was false
and it was defamatory as it could’ve lead to Holmes losing potential movie
People need to ensure they do not post
any defamatory comments as they “do not accomplish anything except to hurt and demean their
intended subject” (Guardianlv (2014) Freedom of Speech comes with
Responsibility). Reporters need to ensure their sources are accurate as a false
accusation falls under defamation and is not protected by the Freedom of Speech
Net Neutrality Repeal and its effects on Freedom of Speech
With the recent vote to get rid of net
neutrality, Freedom of Speech faces a huge challenge in the online world. ISPs
will have the ability to influence any article they wish. How? By slowing down
how fast these websites load relative to other websites or by not allowing them
to load at all. This is what is happening in Beijing now. This leads to Chinese
“simply gravitate to the few sites that aren’t slowed or blocked entirely: the
Chinese counterparts of Facebook, Google, and Twitter.” (NYTimes (2017) What if you couldn’t see this page?)
sort of manipulation may soon happen in America, where websites that oppose
Trump could be slowed down and when there’s a new presidential election certain
candidates may have their websites favoured over others which leads to an imbalance
in the information reaching the public.
website just needs to be slowed down by a few seconds and the users will get
bored and move to a different website. That’s how powerful this repeal will be.
Malicious hacking used to promote rogue
Certain websites and blogs have a very
wide reach on audiences around the world which can lead to them being targeted by
hackers. These hackers can then publish their ‘rogue’ views and messages which may
influence thousands of people into accepting this view. Therefore, the owners
of websites and blogs need to ensure they are protected from these hackers as
much as possible.
Not only can hackers spread their own
views, they can also distribute malware, redirect users to different sites and
steal user data and much more.
This image is a compilation of 873
responses made by website and blog owners whom have had their sites hacked. It
shows what hackers do with the site.
Back in 2012, members of the hacking
group ‘Anonymous’ hacked three websites of Christian organisations and changed
the website to a “30-minute
long YouTube video, Richard Dawkins: An Atheist’s Call to Arms” (IBTimes (2012)
Anonymous Hackers Attack Christian Websites, Declare ‘Religion Sucks LOL’).
Actions like this damages the views shared by many which is why website owners
need to ensure they protect their sites. Fortunately, website owners have a
defence to defamation if they can show that they were not the publisher or
In conclusion, the freedom of speech
law is crucial to making progress in society and allowing people to express
their views without any censorship; when paired with the defamation law, it becomes
balanced and sustainable.
Malicious hacking to provide rogue
views may seem that it falls under the freedom of speech law, however some of
these views are not opinions, they are hate speech which does not fall under
the law and there are consequences for these published views.
One of the disadvantages of freedom of
speech is that it can be misinterpreted by people which leads to hateful views
being published under the impression they are protected by the law. Also,
should everyone have the ability to express their opinions or should certain
people like Donald Trump be restricted from sharing certain views on social
media due to the repercussions it could have.
(2012) New Defamation Bill ‘to protect freedom of speech’. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18005317 (Accessed: 10 December 2017).
Telegraph (2017) Qatar state news agency ‘hacked with fake positive story about Israel and
Iran’. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/24/qatar-state-news-agency-hacked-fake-positive-story-israel-iran/
(Accessed: 10 December 2017).
(2017) What if you couldn’t see this page?
Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/opinion/net-neutrality-china-internet.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FFreedom%20of%20Speech%20and%20Expression (Accessed: 27 December 2017)
Guardianlv (2014) Freedom of Speech Comes with Responsibility http://guardianlv.com/2014/06/freedom-of-speech-comes-with-responsibility/
(Accessed: 27 December 2017)
Cleveland (2017) Judge orders YouTube stars Alissa Violet, Ricky ‘FaZe’ Banks, to cease ‘cyber-bullying
campaign’ against Cleveland bar http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/12/judge_orders_youtube_star_alis_1.html
(Accessed: 27 December 2017)
IBTimes (2012) Anonymous Hackers Attack Christian Websites, Declare ‘Religion Sucks
(Accessed: 27 December 2017)