Defamed on social media
If you have suffered serious damage to your reputation as a result of being defamed on social media, and cannot afford not to ignore it, we can help you seek vindication through libel law.
Over the years we have helped thousands of public figures, HNWIs, businesses and professionals protect their hard-earned reputations. Our highly-regarded media law department is unique because all our solicitors work exclusively in this field. This means that our clients receive the best possible advice and representation.
In many instances postings on social media are flows of consciousness that go unnoticed or are quickly forgotten. Such content, even if grating, is often best ignored. However, on occasion serious allegations can be 'shared', 're-tweeted', 'liked' and end up 'going viral'/reaching a wide audience. Where a posting is defamatory, the damage done by a social media posting can be significant.
We assist clients taking legal action against individuals and companies who have posted material on any social media platform. These include Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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 serious reputational damage has been suffered then you can normally assert 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. Lay individuals can find this a frustrating process, with complaints being ignored or rejected without a proper explanation. We engage with search engine operators, social media platforms and online publishers every day. Based on this experience, we know how legal complaints should be framed and tend to have a good insight into how a particular organisation will assess a complaint.
Why should I instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
In short, to ensure that you have the best team fighting for you and to maximize your prospects of success. Defamation law is notoriously complex and it is generally ill-advised to instruct non-specialist lawyers. Within the field of defamation, we are particularly well-known for our pioneering work in respect of online publication. Our work and client care is of the highest standard. All cases are run by a specialist defamation solicitor. Every matter has partner involvement. If there is a good settlement to be negotiated, we are confident we are well placed to achieve it. If there is a case to be litigated, we are confident we can help you seek the best result.
We have long-standing working relationships with the best media law QCs and junior barristers, whom we can draft into the team to represent you in court if the need arises.
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, Max Campbell and Tom Double individually recognised. Most importantly, we receive excellent feedback from our clients and contemporaries.
Litigation can be stressful, time consuming and costly. Therefore at the outset of your case we will conduct a cost benefit analysis with you. We will talk you through this process. We offer honest and pragmatic advice to our clients. We will always consider alternative options, including asserting other causes of action (such as harassment and the misuse of private information), approaching intermediaries or PR work.
How do I instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
The first step is to attend a preliminary consultation. At the consultation we will advise you on the merits of any claim, talk through the relevant practical and legal issues, and set out your options. We will review relevant documentation ahead of the consultation. The consultation will help you understand your position and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take.
Consultations take place in our London offices or by Skype/telephone. We can also travel to you.
To request a consultation please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 3813 5340. If emailing or using the online form, please provide a short outline of your situation.
Details of the cost of a consultation will be provided following your enquiry.
We regret that we are unable to review your case or provide advice prior to a consultation or without a retainer in place. We do not accept instructions on a contingency fee, damage-based agreement/DBA, conditional fee agreement ("no win, no fee")/CFA or legal aid basis.