THE speed of technological and social change sometimes means the law is left behind and becomes an ass.

A current controversial case has been that of the celebrity, who has taken out a court injunction to prevent details of an extra-marital affair being published in England and Wales. But their identity has been published in Scotland and America and, thanks to the internet, the story has been read by people all over the world. The matter is now heading to the UK Supreme Court.

Today, we report on another case in point, a defamation suit over alleged claims of corruption on Facebook, which once again highlights the need for libel reform in Scotland.

The legal action against the moderator of the Facebook group in Strathaven partly relates to posts written not by him but by other people. The posts have since been removed.

The case raises the question as to whether or not someone should be responsible for what someone else writes on social media.

In England and Wales, the last Coalition government reformed libel laws to mean anyone who wanted to sue needed to show “serious harm” had been caused to their reputation. Rightly, the Scottish Law Commission is now reviewing the position north of the border.

But authorities are beginning to realise reform in England has simply made Scotland a back door to gagging people elsewhere in the UK.

The internet and, in particular, social media mean defamatory statements published south of the border could almost certainly be deemed to have been published north of the border.

This means that a person who believes he or she has been defamed online in, for example, the electronic version of a newspaper story, could choose where to sue. This is beginning to have a chilling effect on what people choose to put or not put online.

Indeed, some journalists have admitted to thinking twice before exposing wrongdoing for fear that they might be hit with a costly defamation action; even if they were in the right.

Scottish Pen, the writers' organisation, has already warned Scotland's online news sites are under serious threat from the country's unreformed defamation laws and this newspaper has begun a campaign to reform our defamation law.

But this is not just a problem for the media. Scientists who criticise unscrupulous corporate interests or dodgy practitioners are now worried Scottish courts could be used to gag them and that could apply even if they were in England or Wales. Consumer champions who review products or services are at also risk; meaning that so too are consumers. Drew Campbell, Scottish Pen’s president, has made clear that without an internet-age defamation law the diversity of Scottish media is at serious risk.

He said: "The referendum stimulated interest in Scottish media that has fostered the creation of new independent and diverse online outlets, which are reshaping the media landscape across Scotland.

"However, Scotland's out-of-date defamation legislation disproportionately impacts these smaller organisations due to the size of the legal fees involved in contesting defamation cases in the courts.

"This is a dire threat to both media plurality and the diverse media landscape in Scotland that continues to grow amid continued challenges across both the industry and the country."

We welcome the signals that Scotland is now taking another look at defamation law but, with changes already made in England and Wales, it is imperative this country catches up.