Many people have social media accounts and make regular postings. Rather unfortunately, it tends to be the ill-considered posts that are more likely to go viral and can prove an expensive exercise as Sally Bercow discovered.
Ill-considered posts can be defamatory
Her tweet about Lord McAlpine set against a background of a BBC Newsnight investigation wrongly linking a senior Conservative politician to sex abuse claims has been determined libelous by the High Court. Her 46-character libelous tweet was sent amid speculation as to the identity of the politician. She wrote ‘why is Lord McAlpine trending *innocent face*’.
The BBC settled Lord McAlpine’s claim for £185,000. Whilst Mrs Bercow apologised in subsequent tweets she did not withdraw her original tweet. The phrase *innocent face* was considered by the Judge to reveal that the question posed by the tweet was ironical. Mrs Bercow has agreed to pay undisclosed damages and may be facing a very substantial costs bill.
We are all subject to defamation law
This decision is a wake-up call for social media users to think before sending. These vehicles for communication are rather different to holding a conversation with friends at home. We are all publishers now for the purposes of defamation law which is one of the most expensive types of case in which to be involved. It is certainly not an area into which one should wander unwittingly.
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