Brexit threatens publisher protection for user comments

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Brexit may result in the removal of legal protection for publishers of reader comments on message boards and online news articles.

Reader comments are currently protected by the EU Electronic Commerce Directive (ECD) Regulations 2002.

The Regulation stipulates that publishers will not be liable for reader commentary which is defamatory or otherwise unlawful provided that the publisher is not involved in comment moderation and editing, and operates an effective complaint and take down system.

The UK’s Defamation Acts of 1996 and 2013 already provide defences to liability in the case of libellous content.

However, the EU’s broader protection for publishers regarding other types of unlawful content is currently missing and will need to be incorporated through Parliament if UK law is to provide the same benchmark of protection as the EU currently offers.