The Risks of using Social media: Defamation
If you’re careless about what you post online (regardless of intention) you will be held liable for your actions where that comment is defamatory (i.e. it is untrue and causes serious harm to another’s reputation).
The ease and speed at which comments are now posted on social media can give a misleading impression that they are throw-away or less meaningful, but the truth is that online content is impactful, long-lasting and therefore potentially very damaging.
It’s easy to get caught out: only this week a Thameslink tweet, intending to placate a frustrated passenger, referred to the quality of Poundland’s cooking chocolate, which drew the ire of the discount retailer and a public threat of legal action.
Considerable commercial interests are now vested in the social media profiles of brands, public figures and ‘Influencers’ alike, therefore an action to combat defamatory comments online may not stop at a take-down request: circumstances may dictate that legal action is pursued.
It is common sense that caution is exercised every time a social media post is made. Notwithstanding, if you do find yourself facing a claim of defamation, all is not necessarily lost.
A number of defences may be available, the most common being:
- Truth: but the burden as defendant is on you to prove what you posted is true; and
- Honest Opinion: subject to it being your honestly held opinion, based upon existing facts, absent malice.
Responding to a Claim
Each must be judged on its own set of facts and not every claim has merit. The risk of simply ignoring a claim, however, is that proceedings may be issued at Court and you could face an injunction, considerable damages and costs liability.
Therefore, if a claim is raised against you, we recommend as an initial step that a lawyer specialising in defamation law is instructed to;
- Undertake an objective analysis of the facts of the case to give a realistic assessment of the strength of the claim against you; and
- Advise on a suitable rebuttal strategy, seeking to minimise further damage and bring about a swift resolution.
If you wish to know more, or to speak to us about how we could help you, you will find further guidance and our contact details on our page: Protecting your Reputation which now includes a Guidance Note on responding to a Defamation Claim.