Defamed on social media
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, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Reviews, 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 (this is a requirement of any defamation claim under sections 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013).
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.
Can I sue a search engine or an online platform?
Only in certain circumstances. We will be able to advise you on the viability of such a claim. We acted for the claimant/appellant in Tamiz v Google Inc  EWCA Civ 68, which was the first time the Court of Appeal considered the liability of internet service providers for libel. The Court held that Google Inc could be liable as publisher at common law in relation to its Blogger platform. Our summary of the judgment can be found here.
Additionally, following the decision of the European Court of Justice in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja Gonzalez (Case C-131/12) it may be possible to sue search engines under the General Data Protection Regulation ('GDPR') or the Data Protection Act 2018 (see our 'Right to be Forgotten' page here).
Finally, we regularly make defamation complaints to intermediaries, on behalf of clients, who will often consider removing or delisting content/links on a voluntary basis.
Why should I instruct Brett Wilson LLP
Defamation law can be notoriously expensive. We are confident our charges represent excellent value for money, particularly for a specialist field practised by relatively few solicitors. Our work is of the highest standard. Every case we handle has partner involvement. We are well-respected by media practitioners. As well as being listed in the prestigious Legal 500 directory as a leading firm in the field of defamation law and privacy law, every solicitor in the media law department is recommended by the directory. Equally, the firm is ranked as a leading firm by Chambers & Partners for defamation and reputation management work, with Iain Wilson and Max Campbell individually recognised. Most importantly, we achieve positive results for our clients and excellent feedback.
Litigation can be costly. Therefore at the outset of your case we will conduct a cost benefit analysis with you (for example, if your case succeeded would your opponent able to pay any judgment or costs order?) We will talk you through this process. We offer honest and pragmatic advice to our clients. We will always consider alternative options, including other causes of action (such as harassment and the misuse of private information) and approaching intermediaries.
What does it cost?
Like most litigation firms, we charge by the hour and our costs will depend on the factual and legal complexity of your case and the volume of material that needs to be considered. In a relatively straightforward case the cost of reviewing/analysing the material/the legal position, taking detailed instructions, advising and preparing a substantive Letter of Claim or Letter of Response will be in the region of £1,000-2,500 plus vat.
The cost of issuing court proceedings and taking a matter to trial will vary considerably depending on the case. We will talk through the likely costs of proceedings with you in person.
We are unable to analyse cases/review material free of charge. However, we offer preliminary consultations where we review material, advise on the merits of a prospective claim and talk through relevant practical/legal issues. 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. These consultations are very popular and from the feedback we get clients find them very helpful. The cost of a consultation will depend on the factual and legal complexity of the matter and, in particular, how much paperwork you require us to consider ahead of the meeting. In relatively straightforward matters, the cost may be as low as £500 plus vat.
How do I instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
To arrange a consultation with one of our defamation lawyers, or to find out how we can support you, please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 3813 5366.