Twibel - Libel on Twitter
If you have suffered serious damage to your reputation as a result of being defamed on Twitter, 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 tweets 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 reach a wide audience, either directly or as a result of retweets and other republications. Where a posting is defamatory, the damage done via Twitter can be significant.
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 serious 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). 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 remedies we can seek on your behalf include: removal, an apology/clarification (for example, pinned to the defendant's twitter feed for 14 or 28 days), 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 (see here for more information).
We will also consider other potential 'causes of action' (legal claims). 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 extreme circumstances a defendant's conduct on Twitter 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. Take screenshots of tweets and, in particular, follower/retweet figures.
- Avoid the temptation to respond directly to the tweeter, retaliate or engage in a spat. You may make matters worse, 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 to book a consultation 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.
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 being formally instructed. 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.