Are you a social liability ?

Find out by answering yes or no to the following questions...

With a 38% rise in legal action for social defamation, are you certain what you post online is deemed as 'safe'?

Whether it's your personal profile or you're managing your company's social accounts, you're one of the 2.3 billion social media users across the globe. What you are about to read may just save you a small fortune.

All you need to do is take our quick and simple quiz, to find out how well you know the laws relating to posting social media content online and how much of a liability you are.

Q1 / 10

Are you within your rights to post this image on instagram?

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Anne Hathaway recently posted an image like this on her Instagram account, but she soon deleted it after she realised she may have ‘pitted people against each other’.

Looking at this from a legal perspective, Anne might not have needed to take it down. The Courts recognise that a publication can have more than one meaning. In this example, the implication is that the Kardashians are ‘trashy’, whereas Helena Bonham Carter is not. But that meaning relies on additional information to that presented in the publication. This type of ‘innuendo’ meaning is often a good defence to an allegation of defamation.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

In cases where the defamatory statement includes an allegation of wrongdoing, the Courts even go so far as to assess meaning as belonging to different ‘levels’. This is just one example of how complicated defamation cases can become.

Q2 / 10

Are you liable if you share someone else’s comments made online?

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Former Miss Turkey was convicted after sharing a video of German comedian Jan Böhmermann criticising their President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Even though the former Miss Turkey did not create the content herself, sharing the video was enough to make her liable for defamation.

So even if you don’t write, record or type a statement, hitting share can be enough to incur liability!

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

You can be liable for a defamatory statement if you are the author, editor, or publisher. So even if you don’t actually write it, posting a comment online may make you the ‘editor’ of the statement if you are the person ‘making the decision to publish it’ (s1(2) Defamation Act 1996; cf. s10(2) Defamation Act 2013).

Q3 / 10

If you posted incorrect information about someone online believing it to be true, could it be classed as libel?

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Rebel Wilson has recently claimed that Bauer Media ran an article claiming she lied about her age, name and background. Rebel insists the article led to rejection of film roles and dismissal of her current employment.

In British law, a statement is deemed defamatory if it ‘lower[s] the claimant in estimation of right-thinking members of society generally’ (Sim v Stretch 1936). Since the article caused Rebel’s employers to change their opinion of her - enough to terminate her employment - this could be classed as defamation.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

It is also important to remember that in ordinary litigation it is the Claimant who must prove the case; whereas in defamation claims the allegedly defamatory statement is presumed to be false, and it is the Defendant’s job to prove otherwise.

Q4 / 10

Is Facebook a private platform to share information?

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In 2015 an Australian man, Miro Dabrowski, won a lawsuit against his estranged wife over domestic abuse allegations she posted to her Facebook account. In this case, for the defendant (the wife) to stand a chance of winning the case she would have to provide proof of her Facebook allegations.

There are many cases surrounding libel on Facebook and because the social network allows users to make connections with ‘friends’, it promotes a relaxed environment – encouraging unguarded and unfiltered statements. Your connections on a social media site may be made up of a thousand of your ‘closest’ friends, but it is NOT a private place.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

Don’t forget that just because your profile might only be visible to your friends, anyone liking it or sharing it may not have the same privacy settings. So your posts may be seen by third parties, against your intentions, through these other parties. And the more people who see it, the greater your potential liability as the statement’s author.

Q5 / 10

Is it acceptable to air your discontent regarding a company or business anywhere on social media?

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In 2014, an online hate campaign on Facebook raged against a restaurant on the Western Esplanade in Southend. The torrent of abuse, which consisted of ‘horrific’ and ‘disgusting’ language, led to the Facebook page being taken down.

Although comments are posted on all areas of social media, when it comes to complaints, most companies have designated places where you can air your opinions in an appropriate manner i.e. review sections.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

One of the first considerations made by the Court when faced with deciding on an allegation of defamation will be how the Defendant has conducted themselves after making the statement. If they later learned the statement was untrue or for another reason sought to remove the statement, did they apologise? These are key considerations, which must be looked at within the first couple of weeks of an allegedly defamatory statement having been made. So you must seek qualified legal advice immediately.

Q6 / 10

If you post a negative comment without naming the person or business, can it still be classed as social defamation?

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You need to be careful about what you post, if people can clearly see who the comments are about regardless of any names mentioned, then you are opening yourself up to being the author of libel comments.

Regardless of whether you name the person or business, it is still ‘murky water’ when posting about others online.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

This again, could be on the basis of an ‘innuendo’ meaning. That only works if you can show that the majority of people do not have the requisite extrinsic knowledge to understand why the comment may be defamatory. However, if you are making a statement to a group of people as an intentional innuendo (e.g. about one work colleague to a group of other work colleagues, without actually naming them), then this defence will not work. In fact it would probably count against the Defendant.

Q7 / 10

Are you safe from facing social defamation prosecution if you have a small social following?

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There isn’t a minimum requirement of followers. As little as one connection is enough to land you in hot water if posting defamatory comments.

Each case differs and is specific to the context, however, the number of followers could impact the amount of compensation you’d be liable for.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

Defamation law was recently updated by the Defamation Act 2013, which introduced a new requirement that defamation claims need to demonstrate that the statement caused or is likely to cause ‘serious harm’. This means that the more people who have seen the comment, the greater the strength of the case – but that does not mean there has to be a particular minimum number of people. One could be enough, but it will depend on who that one person is and why the comment was particularly harmful when made to that particular person.

Q8 / 10

Can you be held liable for defamation if what you post about a person/business was not intentionally offensive?

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You could still be liable for defamation even if the post was not intended to come across as offensive.

Think before you post, as what you may deem to be acceptable won’t necessarily be the case for everyone else.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

In defamation it is the Defendant’s job to prove the statement made was true (if they stand by it). However, this doesn’t mean the Claimant does not have to put any effort in; they will need to convince the Court that the statement caused them harm. This does not mean that they need to also show that the Defendant sought to cause them harm – it can be accidental.

Q9 / 10

Can social defamation cases be made due to the publication of an image?

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Social defamation cases can be made against all types of content, but the claim depends on each individual case.

If you were to post a photograph of someone without their consent, which portrayed them negatively, then this could well be damaging to their reputation and would indeed stand up in court.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

Also, posting images of an individual may infringe on their rights to privacy, creating liability not only for defamation but also for misuse of private information – and this does not even require publication of the image (if it is private in nature), merely that the Defendant has seen it!

Q10 / 10

Could posting an insulting comment regarding someone’s image or identity online be classed as defamation?

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The feminist society at Royal Holloway, University of London, was dubbed “the ugly girls club” by the university’s rugby team. While the club fortunately saw the humorous side and used the remark to spearhead a social media campaign, derogatory comments like these are unacceptable.

Steer clear of making any form of insulting remarks towards an individual or business across social media.

Jonathan

Our civil litigation solicitor , Jonathan, says

When considering the meaning of a statement, the Court will usually try to simplify the matter by taking the words at their ‘ordinary’ meaning. Sometimes this is not straight-forward and in fact can become very complicated based on context.

To find out how to stay safe online,

READ THE GILES WILSON GUIDE TO SOCIAL DEFAMATION
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