But this could change. Lord Justice Leveson, who recently held an inquiry into press standards says he believes there is a ‘pernicious and false’ belief that the law does not apply to the internet.
One of the issues is that newspapers could eventually be wholly online. They could also theoretically move abroad, running their offices from a different country to get round press laws.
“In order to steal a march on bloggers and tweeters, they might be tempted to cut corners, to break or at least bend the law to obtain information for stories or to infringe privacy improperly to the same end,” he said at a lecture to the University of Melbourne, which is reported in Press Gazette.
Meanwhile he called bloggers and tweeters ‘an electronic version of pub gossip’, adding that they act differently to established journalists who have a ‘powerful reputation of accuracy’.
He adds he would like to see international co-operation to tackle the problem.
Newspapers, mags and the internet are already covered by many laws. For example, as we have recently seen with Lord McAlpine taking action with Tweeters over malicious claims retweeted about him, the laws of libel and defamation extend to the UK internet as well. Plus it is already a criminal offence to hack a phone or pay some sources. We are on the side of free speech. Yes the internet is the Wild West but there are also many practical issues to consider – the US champions free speech in its Constitution and foreign countries can’t agree on the most basic of issues, let alone governing the internet.
What are your views? Would it ever be possible to ‘police’ the internet? Let us know below…