Defining a right of reply: An examination of the Law Commission's proposals to use a right of reply to regulate online conduct
This paper examines the Law Commission’s proposals to use a right of reply as a remedy within a new regime to combat harmful digital communications on the Internet in its Ministerial Briefing Paper, Harmful Digital Communications: The Adequacy of Current Sanctions and Remedies. It seeks to determine whether a right of reply is a suitable tool to use in an online context against ordinary citizens, when it has typically been an offline remedy for use against the media. It also considers the best form for a right of reply under this new regulatory regime, in order for it to constitute a proportional limit on a defendant’s right to freedom of expression. It concludes that a right of reply could be a suitable remedy under the regime, and it could constitute a proportional limit on a defendant’s freedom of expression, but a Court should carefully balance the harms a right of reply might pose against the values of free speech implicated in each circumstance, on a case-by-case basis, in order to ensure the limitations a right of reply might pose on freedom of expression are always proportional and justified.