Defamation and social media
Produced in partnership with 5RB
Defamation and social media

The following IP guidance note Produced in partnership with 5RB provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Defamation and social media
  • Overview of defamation
  • Social media websites and liability for those who are not editor, author or publisher
  • Employer liability for defamation
  • Taking action against employees for defamation using social media

The internet and, in particular, social media is a high risk area for defamation litigation. Content posted on blogs, internet forums, online newspaper comment sections and well known social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be inaccurate and vicious in character. Anonymity encourages some individuals to dispense with the usual restraints that they might apply to other forms of publication. For a description of the popular social media websites, how they are used by businesses and associated legal issues, see Practice Note: An introduction to social media.

Liability for defamatory content posted on social media is not, in principle, restricted to the author (who in any case may be unidentifiable). In certain circumstances liability can extend to an internet service provider (ISP), the website operator or an employer.

This Practice Note covers:

  1. What is defamation?

  2. Defamation and social media

  3. Social media and multiple publication

  4. Defences under the Defamation Act 1996 (DeA 1996)

  5. Liability and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (E-Commerce Regulations 2002), SI 2002/2013

  6. Social media and multiple publication

Further reading

You may wish to refer to Duncan and Neil on Defamation (fourth edition, 2015) available subject to a Lexis®Library subscription.

Overview of defamation

What is defamation?

The common law test for defamation is 'would the words tend to lower the plaintiff [claimant] in the estimation of right