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Social Media and Defamation

18th December 2019

Once upon a time, defamation was all but restricted to the rich and famous who would do battle with the mainstream media. Now the use of social media means that the risk of defaming someone is there for all those who use social media. Things “published” in the heat of the moment on “Facebook “, “Twitter “ or similar can reach many people and is often soon beyond the control of the person who initially posted it.

Defamation includes Libel and Slander. It is “Libel” that has to be in lasting form (such as a social media post) whereas slander is temporary in nature 9 the spoken word or even gestures.) If that “post “includes something that is untrue and adversely affects a person’s reputation it could amount to libel.

The Defamation Act 2013 has brought some order to what was previously “ common law “ ( i.e. law based on case law ) AND, very importantly, restricted the scope of claims by a requirement that a statement is NOT to be regarded as defamatory if it did not or would not cause “ serious harm “ It is for the courts to decide what amounts to serious harm.

As a victim of defamation, you should think very carefully before resorting to the courts. The risk of being ordered to pay the other parties’ costs if you are wrong is very real and potentially costly. As the “perpetrator” you should be aware that there are people with nothing to lose and lawyers who will take such cases on a “no win no fee “arrangement. People in this situation often, literally, have nothing to lose!

The best advice you will ever have is this. “Don’t Do It – don’t” post or say anything that may be defamatory UNLESS you want to run the risk of spending ( lots of ) time and money on lawyers and in court.

However, If you should find yourself in this predicament – seek legal advice immediately!

Ian Oliver – Partner – Dispute Resolution


George Ide
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