Judges told to consider "viral tweets" in libel damages
By Barry Collins
Posted on 2 Jan 2013 at 08:38
The potentially "viral" effect of defamatory statements made on Twitter should be taken into account when awarding damages, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
In what could be a significant judgement for defamation cases involving social networks, the Lord Chief Justice ruled that it is fair for judges to consider whether a rumour may "go viral" when propagated on services such as Twitter.
The court was hearing an appeal involving the New Zealand cricketer, Chris Cairns, who was falsely accused of match fixing on Twitter.
Defamatory statements are objectionable not least because of their propensity to percolate through underground channels and contaminate hidden springs
The Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether it was appropriate for the judge in the case to "have had regard to the capacity for the story in question to 'go viral' via the Twitter site and the internet generally", according to a law report published in today's Times.
The Lord Chief Justice backed the judge in the Cairns case, citing a dictum that was made in an infamous defamation case brought against the BBC in 1990 - 16 years before Twitter was even founded - in which the Corporation was held liable for derogatory remarks that were repeated by newspapers.
In that Slipper vs BBC case, Lord Justice Bingham stated that "defamatory statements are objectionable not least because of their propensity to percolate through underground channels and contaminate hidden springs".
The Lord Chief Justice added that it "was obvious that today, with the ready availability of the world wide web and of social networking sites, the scale of the problem had been immeasurably enhanced, especially for libel claimants who were already, for whatever reason, in the public eye".
That ruling may give heart to Lord McAlpine, who is currently pursuing a libel action against Sally Bercow for comments made on Twitter. Ms Bercow, the wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, made reference to Lord McAlpine in a tweet shortly after he was wrongly identified as being involved in child abuse.
Is your business a social business? For helpful info and tips visit our hub.
- Move over Delia: IBM Watson is cooking tonight
- Eric Schmidt on the double-edged smartphone: friend and foe
- Getty joins the race to the bottom
- Hour of Code: five steps to learn how to code
- Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review: first look
- Sony Xperia Z2 review: first look
- Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 review: first look
- Nokia XL review: first look
- Samsung Galaxy S5 review: first look
- Nokia X review: first look
- Windows Server 2012 R2: how the Datacenter edition could change SMBs
- Invoices and VAT: how to set up your documents correctly
- Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: the best phone for avoiding screen burn
- How much is a social user worth?
- The key to choosing a secure password
- Thunderbolt Bridge: a fast Mac migration tool
- Should you advertise on Twitter?
- How to track a lost smartphone
- Self-publishing success: the best way to sell your book
- 1.6TB SSD: why would you need one?