Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Online bullies: No more anonymity

Paper people

"You are so not anonymous online," was a striking phrase from a conference on cyber-bullying last summer.

This has been reinforced by a recent judgement where Sheffield Wednesday Football Club obtained a court order to compel a website to assist the club in discovering the identities of fans who had posted allegedly defamatory comments on the site.

The judge, reflecting the tenderness for free speech and privacy enjoined in the Human Rights Act, did not give carte blanche to hunting down any offending party.

Effectively he confined it to accusations that could be seen as defamatory: that is, those that would tend to lower the esteem of the directors in the opinion of right-minded people, holding them up to contempt, scorn or ridicule or tending to exclude them from society. Mere disgruntled abuse as such he did not think would have this effect.

While the case does not add significantly to existing law, it may be an example which will carry more weight with students who are thinking of placing defamatory comments on social websites. Education in ICT can include the law as well as technique.

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