A global village needs global regulation

By April 2, 2009 No Comments

We have the G20 in London this week to co-ordinate a response to the credit crunch with leaders all around the world saying the unprecedented levels of integration between our economies require unprecedented levels of co-operation between governments.

The same is true of the web.

In the UK we have some of the strictest laws globally against libel and as a result we now have the rise of ‘defamation tourism’ – from Techdirt:

For years, we’ve talked about how the significantly lower barrier to showing libel in the UK (and the higher damages) have resulted in people suing for libel in the UK for online content, even if there’s no connection (at all) to the UK. Yes, there have been cases where people outside the UK have sued in the UK over content that was written, published and hosted outside of the UK (and targeted at a non-UK audience) just because of the nature of UK libel laws. Slashdot points out that this is raising concerns of an increasing number of “defamation tourism” cases in the UK

It is the world wide web, and if it is to remain that way it needs consistent world wide regulation.  This sort of thing is just crazy.  Not that it is easy to fix, because to harmonise regulation you need to harmonise the values that lie behind it.

The alternative of course is to build geo-identification into the infrastructure of the web.  Then you can know for sure where content is viewed and therefore which country’s laws apply.  This is certainly technically feasible and we already have some aspects of this in place (as you will know if you try and watch Hulu here in the UK or listen to Spotify in the US) – but I really hope we don’t go down this route.

Globalisation throws up lots of questions to which there are no easy answers.