Scots defamation law review amid growth of social media

social media

A review of defamation law in Scotland has been launched amid the growth of social media.

The Scottish government has invited members of the public to a consultation on the law, which protects an individual’s reputation against false claims.

The move was made after the Scottish Law Commission made 49 recommendations to modernise and simplify legislation.

It is the first review of its kind for more than 20 years.

The commission, which spent three years looking at defamation, said that a defence of “public interest” should be enshrined in law, allowing what it called “fearless journalism” to thrive.

It also suggested reducing the time limit for bringing a legal action from three years to one, because if there is genuine reputational damage, social media means it would quickly become clear.

‘Increasingly instant and common’

The government said it wanted to ensure a balance between freedom of expression and the protection of an individual’s reputation.

Launching the consultation, Ash Denham, minister for community safety and MSP for Edinburgh Eastern, highlighted how the increase in false information spread via social media was a key push behind the review.

She said: “Defamation law potentially affects everyone and it is crucial that we ensure the law is fit for modern Scotland.

“The enormous growth in the use of social media presents new challenges and means that defamatory communication is becoming increasingly instant and common.

“It is crucial that we strike the right balance between the two values that often pull in opposing directions – freedom of expression and the protection of an individual’s reputation.

“Consultation is an essential part of the process and members of the public have an important part to play in reforming the law on defamation and ensuring it is fit for the future.”