Dafamation on Twitter is commonly referred to as Twibel and if a tweet is made and read and causes damage to a persons reputation then they may be able to pursue a claim for libel.
The more followers that the tweeter has, the more likely any tweet could cause damage to a reputation, particularly if it is then retweeted by others.
A Twibel case was taken by Lord McAlpine against Sally Bercow, the wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, that was made in 2012 after a BBC Newsnight report that linked an unnamed Conservative politician to historic child sex claims. Sally Bercow then tweeted a reference to Lord McAlpine.
“Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*.”
The tweet was alleged by Lord McAlpine to be defamatory and falsely implicate him as a paedophile.
The allegations in the Newsnight report were proven to be unfounded and the BBC paid Lord McAlpine £185,000 in damages, however, action was then taken against those who had repeated the claim through Twitter.
Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that a reasonable reader would have linked Lord McAlpine to the Newsnight report:
“The reasonable reader would understand the words ‘innocent face’ as being insincere and ironical. There is no sensible reason for including those words in the tweet if they are to be taken as meaning that the defendant simply wants to know the answer to a factual question,”
It was found that Sally Bercow’s tweet was seriously defamatory and that she paid damages and apologised in court.
The result of the case was that the same principles that govern defamation within newspapers and other publications apply to bloggers and social media users and that it does not have to be proven that a normal reader would understand a certain meaning as long as enough followers would have understood the meaning.
The facts, parties, number of followers, seriousness of the defamation and the background to the tweet all affect the likelihood of a twibel case of succeeding.
About Athena Forensics
For information on our digital forensic services or if you require any advice or assistance please contact a member of our team on 0845 882 7386 or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org, further details are available on our contact us page.
Our client’s confidentiality is of the utmost importance. All correspondence is treated with discretion, from initial contact to the conclusion of any computer forensics investigation.
Our digital forensics experts are fully aware of the significance and importance of the information that they encounter and we have been accredited to ISO 9001 for 10 years.
Our forensic experts are all security cleared and we offer non-disclosure agreements if required. Our premises along with our security procedures have been inspected and approved by law enforcement agencies.
Athena Forensics do not disclose personal information to other companies or suppliers.