Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
ARGUING THAT there is a need to make an example out of persons who use the Internet to defame others, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have recommended to Parliament that cyber defamation be made a crime.
The suggestion comes even as the Press Association of Jamaica pressures the Government to amend the country's age-old defamation laws, removing many provisions, among them criminal libel.
Addressing the joint-select committee of Parliament considering a review to the Cyber Crimes Act, both the police and the DPP said making cyber defamation a crime would go a far way in stomping out some nefarious acts.
Cyber defamation covers instances where a person, using a computer, engages in conduct with the intention to harm the reputation of a particular person or reasonably knowing that the conduct could cause harm.
"When you look at the magnitude of it, let's say you are on Facebook and someone puts up something derogatory about you. You are broadcasting this information to over six billion people throughout the world. The magnitude of this would make it a criminal act," Warren Williams, member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
Asked by committee member Dr Dayton Campbell if there would be space provided for retraction of the egregious material, Williams said "you need to send a strong warning".
Patrick Linton, another police officer, told the committee that, once something is published in cyber space, it remains there forever. He argued that persons should pay a criminal price for acts such as digital distortion of images, which are posted on the Internet.
But Maurice Bailey of the Legal Reform Department, warned against the proposal.
"We are, in fact, moving to abolish the idea of criminal defamation as most jurisdictions have done, and recently it was raised again by the press association," Bailey noted.
Locksley Ricketts, counsel from the DPP's office, as well as Linton and Williams, had argued that the action should be criminalised because of the potential reach via the Internet.
But Dr Campbell warned about using a shotgun to kill an ant. "If it is a pejorative remark that is made, I don't think that should be criminal."