Social Media Defamation
If you have suffered damage to your reputation as a result of being defamed on social media we can help you seek vindication through libel law.
In many instances postings on social media are flows of consciousness that go unnoticed or are quickly forgotten. Equally, postings can be 'shared', 're-tweeted', 'liked', copied and end up 'going viral'. Where a posting is defamatory, the damage done by a social media posting can be significant. Within a social group a reputation can quickly be destroyed.
We can assist clients taking legal action against individuals who have posted material on any social media platform. These include Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr and Foursquare.
When establishing a defamation claim it is generally immaterial whether a defendant has launched a deliberate attack on your reputation, fired off a post in anger or innocently repeated a defamatory statement made by a third party. If the post is read and reputational damage has been suffered then you may be able to pursue a claim for libel.
Defamation is not simply a numbers game, but generally the more readers the offending post has the greater the likelihood of reputational damage. Damage may increase further, and additional claims arise, if the defamatory message is republished elsewhere. Conversely if the level of readership is low then a claim for libel may fail unless it can be established on evidence that the posting has caused or is likely to cause serious reputational harm.
The normal laws of libel apply to publications on social media, including the ability of the defendant to raise various defences. For example, the defence of truth or honest opinion (sections 2 and 3 of the Defamation Act 2013).
The remedies we can seek on your behalf include: removal, an apology/clarification, damages/ compensation, and an undertaking (promise) not to repeat. In matters that go to court we can seek damages and an injunction. On occasions, a statement can be made in open court putting the record straight.
In some instances a poster will be anonymous or pseudo-anonymous (i.e. they will use an alias). We can advise you on your options, including asking intermediaries such as Facebook to remove the offending content or the scope for seeking a type of court order known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order requiring the disclosure of information which might identify the poster.
We will also consider other potential causes of action. These include:
- The misuse of private information and/or breach of confidence, where there has been a breach of your privacy or confidence.
- Breach of data protection rights under the General Data Protection Regulation ('GDPR') and Data Protection Act 2018.
- Harassment - In some circumstances this may also give rise to criminal liability.
What to do if you have been defamed on social media
1. Stay calm, but act quickly to preserve relevant evidence.
2. Avoid the temptation to respond directly to the poster, retaliate or engage in a spat. You may undermine any claim you have or, worse still, commit a more serious libel.
3. Print all relevant webpages (ensuring they are date-stamped). These should show all relevant posts and details of the poster, including the number of followers/friends they have. If the post was republished you should repeat the process for each individual that republished it.
4. The court will not automatically presume that the offending tweet has been read, particularly if the number of followers is not particularly high. You should therefore make a note of any instance of the posting being brought to your attention (e.g. someone asking you about it). You should also preserve any evidence of damage to your reputation caused by the tweet.
Contact us as soon as possible. The limitation period for issuing a claim in libel is one year and this is rarely disapplied. In any event, defamation is a cause of action where time is of the essence and the court may question whether there has been any serious reputational harm (now a requirement under section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013) if you do not act quickly in seeking the vindication of your reputation.
Contact our social media defamation solicitors
We offer fixed-fee preliminary consultations. A consultation will help you understand the legal and practical issues relating to your case and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take.
Please note that we do not undertake civil litigation on a legal aid basis and legal aid is not available for defamation claims.