Have you been defamed on the internet?
Posted: 12th December 2019
The internet unfortunately provides an opportunity for defamatory statements at the click of a button. However, a High Court case strikingly showed that the law can move fast to put a stop to such activities.
The case concerned a wealthy investor and philanthropist who was the subject of a number of wounding posts by a prolific user of a social media platform. In summary, they alleged that he was a criminal money launderer who had lobbied in favour of a hard Brexit at the behest of a foreign power.
After lawyers launched defamation proceedings on his behalf, a judgment was swiftly obtained against the user, who put in no defence to the claim. An injunction was issued against him requiring him to remove the offending posts, but that was done not by him but by the platform provider.
In awarding the philanthropist £10,000 in damages, the Court found that all practicable steps had been made to contact the user and that he had chosen to play no part in the proceedings. His conduct was serious in that he had cavalierly accused the philanthropist of criminal misconduct in a very public forum.
The user’s behaviour in response to the claim had aggravated the injury to the philanthropist’s feelings and the latter was entitled to full vindication. Although an award of damages in excess of £20,000 would have been more than justified, the philanthropist had limited his claim to half that sum. Unless the user agreed to publish a correction and apology on his social media profile, he would be required to post a summary of the Court’s judgment.