Libel reform?

I’m starting to come around to the idea that libel law may be being misused on occasion.

Initially, I had assumed that the libel reform campaign was all a put-up job by the press and various ego-maniac authors and smug comedians in order that they could destroy decent people’s reputations with impunity. I mean, the poor old chiropractors seemed rather hard done by. There they were, just trying to make a quiet living, and suddenly they were all over the papers accused of happily promoting bogus treatments for which there is not a jot of evidence. Which obviously would have been taken be any normal user of English to mean that they were a cynical bunch of con artists. No wonder they were pissed off.

But people ought surely to be able to slag off ‘think-tanks’ without getting sued for slander. If you’re in the business of promulgating controversial ideas in order to get media coverage, surely getting slagged off and/or compared to Hitler is part of the business? You can’t sue people for that!

Having said that, I’m still not sure how reform would work. The law itself seems more or less right as it is. The bad cases seem to lose, if fought. The problem appears to be the chilling effect of rich people or organisations threatening bad cases and getting less well-resourced people to back off. That problem of course exists in the law more generally. How are you going to deal with that?

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