Cyberharrassment and Online Defamation: A default form of regulations?
Central Queensland University
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
The notion of freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of democratic societies, and perhaps nowhere is this more clearly articulated and defended than on the Internet. Developed upon laissez-faire principles that characterised the American frontier, the Internet has become strongly identified with a particularly liberal interpretation of free speech rights. However, studies into computer-mediated communication ( CMC ) suggest the promotion of liberal free speech rights has contributed to a contemporary Internet culture that both facilitates and accepts as ‘normal’ an adversarial style of interaction, that has the potential to degenerate into abuse and online defamation. In such situations the right to freedom of expression for some individuals may be severely compromised. This is illustrated in the case study Cullen v White, which explores the impact of a sustained and malicious campaign of online harassment and defamation on both an individual, and more laterally the electronic public sphere. This case study highlights the danger this more insidious form of ‘regulation’ poses to free speech rights and a healthy electronic public sphere, and draws parallels between the impact of online harassment and defamation, and the oft-quoted dangers posed to freedom of expression by opportunistic defamation law suits designed to ‘chill’ speech.