Twibel - Libel on Twitter
If you have suffered damage to your reputation as a result of being defamed on Twitter we can help you seek vindication through libel law. Being defamed in this way online is commonly referred to as Twibel, and is a growing phenomenon.
When establishing a claim it is generally immaterial whether a defendant has launched a deliberate attack on your reputation, fired off a tweet in anger or innocently re-tweeted a defamatory statement made by a third party. If the tweet is read and reputational damage has been suffered then you may be able to pursue a claim for online libel.
Defamation is not simply a numbers game, but generally the more followers the offending tweeter has the greater the likelihood of reputational damage (on the basis that more people will have read the tweet). Damage may increase further, and additional claims arise, if the defamatory message is re-tweeted or published elsewhere. Conversely if the offending tweeter has a small number of followers then a claim for libel may fail unless it can be established on evidence that the tweet has caused or is likely to cause serious reputational harm.
The normal laws of libel apply to publications on Twitter, 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 the tweeter will be anonymous or pseudo-anonymous (i.e. they will use an alias). We can advise you on your options, including asking Twitter to remove the offending tweet 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 tweeter.
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 libelled on Twitter
- Stay calm, but act quickly to preserve relevant evidence.
- Avoid the temptation to respond directly to the tweeter, retaliate or engage in a spat. You may undermine any claim you have or, worse still, commit a more serious libel.
- Print all relevant webpages (ensuring they are date stamped). These should show all relevant tweets and the details of the tweeters, including the number of followers they have. If the tweet was re-tweeted you should repeat the process for each individual that re-tweeted it. If the allegations were republished outside of Twitter you should capture this information.
- 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 tweet 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 Twitter libel solicitors
In most instances we offer fixed-fee preliminary consultations from £400 plus VAT. 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.