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Defamation, Slander & Libel on Social Media

The rise of social media means that it has never been easier or more effective for high profile individuals, from politicians to celebrities to influencers, to get their messages out into the world.

But while platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have a huge positive influence, there is a much darker side of misinformation, “trolling” and cyberbullying.

The perceived anonymity and often loose regulation of social media means that users, particularly high profile individuals, can be easy targets. Perpetrators now range from “keyboard warriors”, individuals who act alone, to serious and prolonged smear campaigns by organised and political groups.

When someone makes comments or publishes content about someone else that is unfair, untrue and harmful to their reputation, they could be held liable for defamation.

At Saunders Law, we work with a wide range of individuals, including celebrities, influencers and public figures on a wide range of media law issues. Our expertise includes providing advice about privacy and defamation (libel and slander) on social media.

Our team includes media law specialists who have worked on a number of significant cases over the years, including the News of the World phone hacking scandal and a case concerning the publication of defamatory blog posts.

We can assist with defamation on all social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and LinkedIn. We can advise in complex scenarios, for example, cases concerning ‘temporary’ content such as Instagram Stories or Snapchat Snaps.

Speak to our social media defamation solicitors in London

For expert advice about defamation on social media, contact Saunders Law for an initial discussion about how we may be able to help.

Call us on 020 7315 4809 or make an enquiry online.

Why Saunders Law is the smart choice for defamation on social media advice

Over 40 years’ media law experience

We draw on over 40 years of expertise and experience. Our Media Law team is partner-led, so our clients can always expect the highest quality of legal advice and representation.

Independently recognised expertise

Our market-leading litigation experts consistently receive recognition in prestigious client guides, the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

Reputation management specialists

Our team includes lawyers who have previously worked in public relations. Limiting reputational damage is central to what we do, and we work tirelessly to protect our clients from the impact of defamation, libel and slander.

We understand that defamation on social media is often not treated as seriously as other types of defamation by the press and general public. We are committed to ensuring this changes and will continue to highlight the incredible harm defamatory online content can have to an individual’s life and career.

Examples of our successful online defamation work

  • Obtaining an injunction for a well-known businessman and entrepreneur to remove and prohibit the publication of defamatory blogs

What is defamation, slander and libel on social media?

Defamation is when someone makes a comment or statement about someone else that is unfair, untrue and likely to harm their reputation or character. Read more general information about defamation, libel and slander here.

Libel and slander are sub-types of defamation. Libel concerns defamatory statements that are permanent. On social media, this could range from a tweet on Twitter to a YouTube video.

Slander is when someone talks about someone else in a defamatory way. Arguably, you cannot slander someone over social media because comments made online are permanent and classed as publications. Even ‘temporary’ social media content, such as Instagram stories, can be preserved and distributed.

Reporting defamation to social media platforms

Most social media platforms allow users to report false and defamatory information for review and removal.

However, it is commonly known that it can be hard to scrub information from the internet, even if the platform responds in a timely manner. In many cases, the more effort someone goes to remove or conceal information, the more it is spread – this is often referred to as the Streisand Effect.

In such cases, a defamation claim may be the best course of action to obtain a legal declaration that comments made on social media are false and to prevent the continued spread of defamatory information.

Our lawyers are reputation management experts and have considerable experience assisting individuals and businesses – including high profile individuals, celebrities and influencers – manage their privacy and protect themselves from libel online.

What are some examples of defamation, slander & libel on social media?

Defamation and libel on Facebook

Facebook provides a way for people to connect with friends and family and share updates. Facebook is commonly used by businesses, influencers and high profile individuals to share content and engage with their followers.

Making a Facebook post is a much more casual medium than, for example, publishing views in a newspaper. So what constitutes a defamatory post on Facebook?

This question was considered in the 2019 Supreme Court case of Stocker v Stocker. Mrs Stocker, the ex-wife of Mr Stocker, wrote, “he tried to strangle me” on Facebook, which Mr Stocker claimed was defamatory.

Among the issues, the Supreme Court considered the meaning of this statement and how it would have been interpreted on social media. The judge, at first instance, had used a dictionary definition of “strangle” to determine what the Facebook post meant, but the Supreme Court held they were wrong to do this.

The Court referenced a “new class of reader: the social media user” and commented that defamation cases involving social media must be considered in the context of which social media posts are made and read.

In the case of Facebook, the Court said, “people scroll through it quickly. They do not pause and reflect. They do not ponder on what meaning the statement might possibly bear. Their reaction is impressionistic and fleeting”.

Defamation and libel on Twitter

Like Facebook, tweets on Twitter are considered in their own unique context. This was clear in the 2018 case of Monir v Wood where the High Court stated, “Twitter is a fast moving medium. People will tend to scroll through messages relatively quickly”.

In this case, the Vice Chairman of Bristol UKIP published a tweet on the Bristol UKIP Twitter account, which falsely accused Mr Monir of child grooming.

Although the Vice Chairman published the tweet, it was the Chairman who was held liable for defamation. It was held that in this particular case, the Vice Chairman was acting as the agent of the Chairman and that the Chairman was vicariously liable.

So, one interesting point that arose from this case is a person who is not responsible for defamatory comments on social media could be held responsible for them.

Defamation and libel on Instagram

Instagram is a popular image-based social media platform owned by Facebook. Instagram is often the platform of choice for influencers and celebrities to upload a wide range of content, in particular lifestyle and ‘vlog’ style content.

The most famous Instagram libel case is likely the dispute between “footballers’ wives”, Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy. Colloquially referred to as the “Wagatha Christie” case, Vardy is currently suing Rooney for using her Instagram and Twitter platforms to accuse Vardy of leaking stories to newspapers. Despite attempts at mediation, the parties the case is set for trial in early 2022.

Speak to our social media defamation solicitors in London

For expert advice about defamation on social media, contact Saunders Law for an initial discussion about how we may be able to help.

Call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry online.