Internet libel cases soar

The number of cases of libel on the internet reported to the Swedish Data Inspection Board has soared from four in 2000 to 157 in 2005 - but that is only a fraction of the total number of complaints received, according to Sveriges Radio.

“Many are abused on the Internet but can’t get any help anywhere. There are so many insults and so much harassment that we have no practical way of dealing with it,” said Mats Björklund, a lawyer at the board, to SR.

Only a small number of reported cases are registered and even fewer are reported to the police.

The Swedish Data Inspection Board’s main tool in handling such cases is the Personal Data Act. In order for violations to be classified as a crime, some kind of personal information about the person has to be published.

But the law contains exceptions and if the information published serves a “journalistic purpose”, then no crime has been committed. That was the finding in a case in the Supreme Court in 2001.

Since then, many have exploited this gap in the Personal Data Act and have claimed that they published sensitive information about others for “journalistic purposes”.

“The clever ones publish sensitive personal information in the form of a newspage or simple newspaper and we cannot get to them, so it is a problem,” says Björklund.

The number of defamation offences registered have also increased – by 30 percent during the period 2002-2005.