Survey reveals bloggers unaware of libel risks

New research suggests the vast majority of internet posters are unclear on their legal responsibilities

Only 5 per cent of internet users are clear on their legal responsibilities, a new survey for solicitors DLA Piper has found, despite the increasing use of blogs, message boards and social networking sites.

The survey, of 2,000 adults, found that three quarters of those who had posted comments on blogs were oblivious to the law of defamation. Just one in three internet users had ever read the terms and conditions of the sites they used, despite 14% having had material removed for breach of those terms (rising to 28% among bloggers).

The research suggests that not only are internet users unaware of the legal risks they face, they are unconvinced that the law should apply to them in the same way as it does to traditional media. Less than half of all internet users believe that bloggers should be held to the same legal standards as journalists, with that view held by only a quarter of bloggers.

However, the survey did reveal some support for a voluntary bloggers’ code reflecting libel and other relevant laws, such as copyright, privacy and harassment. Almost half of internet users supported the introduction of such a code, although bloggers supported and opposed the proposal in almost equal measure.

The survey suggests that the overall volume of people posting comments online is rising. More than half of those surveyed, including 84% of the 18-24 age group, had posted some form of comment online, whether on a blog, message board or social networking site.