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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: 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:
What is defamation?
Defamation and social media
Social media and multiple publication
Defences under the Defamation Act 1996 (DeA 1996)
Liability and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (E-Commerce Regulations 2002), SI 2002/2013
You may wish to refer to Duncan and Neil on Defamation (fifth edition, 2020) available subject to a Lexis®Library subscription.
The common law test for defamation is 'would the words tend to lower the plaintiff [claimant] in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally' (Sim
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