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Web sites shut over 'rape' rumors

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LONDON, England -- There are calls for greater regulation of Internet message boards after the names of English Premiership footballers rumored to be linked to the rape of a teenager appeared on the Web.

British newspapers printed allegations from a 17-year-old girl that she was raped by a number of footballers at a hotel in central London.

Police have confirmed that an investigation is under way, but have refused to name the individuals concerned, or even to say whether they are footballers.

However, speculation about the identity of those involved has been rife on Internet message boards and in chat rooms. A number of sites where names have appeared have already been shut down.

The Internet Service Providers' Association is campaigning for a complete overhaul of law surrounding the Internet to provide clear legal guidance to clamp down on rumors.

And solicitor Mark Stephens, who has represented high-profile clients, told the UK Press Association: "No longer do members of the public wait for information to be published or broadcast, they are actively seeking it out ... which is leading to the spread of e-mails, texts, and scurrilous Web sites.

"This has really serious implications for impacting adversely on the jury pool and that's the challenge for the 21st century legal system."

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