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Social Media - a rise in defamation claims?

18/08/2017 | ACUMEN BUSINESS LAW
Jack Monroe is a food blogger and self confessed twitter addict who was defamed by Katie Hopkins earlier this year. Monroe, member of a long line of military servicemen and women, was accused of supporting the desecration of a war memorial by Hopkins to her 570,000 twitter follows, as well as, the numerous more who would have seen her defamatory statement through Twitters engagement system; retweets, replies, trends and likes. This public case of defamation highlights the dangers of social media as Ms Hopkins was found to have caused serious harm and ordered to make a five digit compensation payment to Ms Monroe. 

Where a statement is made to a third party, in this instance 570,000+ parties, and is defamatory, in that it is detrimental to how “right thinking people” see the defamed then a claim could be potentially be brought. The final hurdle would be proving that the defamatory statement caused serious harm; such as to reputation and feelings. Where the harm done to the reputation has caused a loss of income, such as a client leaving, then the court may factor this in their judgment and award for the lost business.

An example of this which is relevant to most businesses these days is where a disgruntled customer makes an untrue statement about the goods or services that they received. In such circumstances, a defamation claim can be used to combat the untrue statement and, ideally, have the fictitious review removed from its platform, such as TripAdvisor or Yelp. However, it is important to tread with caution as often bringing such a claim may only serve to put a further spotlight on the allegations. It is often best to engage the relevant website’s notice and takedown provisions or try to settle with the maker of the statement. An alternative to this is to “PR” the statement by engaging with the poster on the website itself.

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