News and Events

When social media becomes anti-social media

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Have you ever considered the issues of defamation when viewing comments online?

It's hard to imagine a time when social media wasn't such a part of everyday life.

Facebook and Twitter have completely transformed the way people both publish and consume news, but what's more revolutionary is the way it stokes the powers of debate. But sometimes, that debate can turn sour, or in some cases, just plain nasty.

In the past, the only way you could make a point about something you'd read or watched was to write to the publisher. You'd then see "comments from readers", often on a dedicated page in a newspaper or magazine, or sometimes in a lowly slot on a Sunday afternoon on the TV. Today, things are very different.

News tends to be published on websites first, and people are allowed, and indeed, encouraged to post comments and opinions, and that's when arguments can start.

Often, when spilling out into social media such as Facebook, people lose that sense of common decency and behave in ways that they would never consider doing if talking face to face or saying something that they would never repeat in print.

Sometimes a debate can be lively yet manageable, but occasionally it can be deeply upsetting when someone doesn’t like what you say or how you look or what you do and decides to get personal, opinions get confused with facts, and the truth takes a back seat.

This is when things can go wrong, especially if someone says something that can be seen to be disparaging and damaging to your reputation. Even worse, if what they say causes you financial loss or is detrimental to your business, the effects can be long-standing and cause a lot of disruption.

What many people don't understand, however, is that the laws that govern defamation in print, are applicable online, too.

If a false statement is made about someone in print, on a blog, on social media or even verbally, this amounts to defamation, and there is something you can do about it.

If made in the heat of the moment, a direct approach where you simply point out the person's error and ask them to remove the offending post will often do the trick, and you'll probably get an apology. Often people don't realise the hurt they've caused during a moment of red mist, but when it's pointed out, they'll back down.

But sometimes, they stand firm. 

That's when a solicitor's letter will often give the desired result.

Our Dispute Resolution team have a proven track record of success when writing to third parties and getting defamatory statements removed. These also result in a full apology and a promise that there will not be a repeat.

If you've had false statements made about you, contact Sarah Rooney or call us on 0800 118 1500 to find out how we can help.