Website registration: the fundamental questions remains, ‘What’s the point?’

Published: February 21, 2017 at 12:25pm

There’s a report in the Times of Malta today about which websites will or won’t be required to register under the government’s proposed draconian law. But it leaves the fundamental question completely unaddressed: ‘What’s the point of registration?’

There has to be a point to every law, because laws are not enacted for kicks. So the only question we need to ask is ‘Why does the government think news websites should be registered?’.

There’s the rub. “But newspapers are required to register their editors, and so are broadcasting stations.” That’s not a suitable answer. The registration requirement for editors of newspapers and broadcasting stations should go, not new requirements added, because its sole purpose of that registration is for people and the government to know who to sue for libel.

Oh, didn’t you know that? Well, that’s the reason. In fact, the UK repealed its newspaper registration law, which had long become a dead letter, a couple of years ago – saying that now that newspapers are all incorporated as commercial (limited liability) companies, there’s no point to having a registered owner and publisher.

Also, it is not up to the government to helpfully make sure that people know who to sue in entirely private civil suits. It is not the government’s business at all, and it does not helpfully identify the people we need to sue in any other area of life. We have to find out for ourselves.

Most of the libel and slander, in any case, takes place on sites for which there is no registration requirement, like Facebook.

The registration requirement can be challenged at this most basic level, by asking: ‘What is the justification for registration?’ The government doesn’t have an answer to that one, because it can’t say: ‘It’s to show people who they have to sue.’

“Don’t worry, Chris – we plan to put a stop to all discussion about your pubic deeds.”