Online Defamation – Key Points

The relentless proliferation of the internet and social media is an integral element for a large proportion of businesses as they seek to maximise channels to target potential new customers.

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Online Defamation – Key Points

On the downside, the ferocious speed at which a social media post, which is detrimental or defamatory to the business, can be liked and shared – can damage reputations in just a few hours.

With this in mind, it is vital that businesses closely monitor their own social media channels and wider online publications and posts, to ensure that any risk is limited as far as possible.

The law on defamation is governed by the Defamation Act 2013. This means that, for a statement to be defamatory, its publication must cause or be likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the Claimant. In the case of a company, the serious harm must cause – or be likely to cause – a serious financial loss.

Whilst the Defamation Act 2013 is a relatively concise piece of legislation that can be reviewed relatively quickly, there are a number of wider legal points that can impact on its application and other commercial factors to be aware of if subject to online defamation:-

Act quickly to reduce reputational risks.

It stands to reason that the longer a defamatory remark remains online, the greater the risk to a business’ reputation. This is particularly the case in respect of social media posts, where the content can be shared thousands of times within a matter of minutes. In such circumstances, a failure to act quickly can render the possibility of totally removing all traces of a post almost impossible.

Preserve the evidence by quickly securing a copy of the offending comments.

Although social media often enables an immediate response, resist the temptation to respond to the negative material without weighing-up the benefits of doing so and, if possible, taking legal advice.

Take steps to mitigate any harm that may be suffered by the defamatory remark. For example, if a comments has been posted on one of a practice’s own social media channels, consider whether the relevant page can be temporarily removed or amended whilst steps are taken to remove the post entirely.

Consider reporting the offending post using the available procedures available on a number of the major social media platforms.

Take advice as to whether a post is actually defamatory.

Often, in the case of negative reviews, whilst the content is obviously unhelpful for a practice it may not actually constitute defamation.

Establish a consistent approach to dealing with defamatory remarks.

If in doubt, always take early advice from an experienced solicitor who can provide guidance as to what steps should be taken.

If you would like to discuss how to approach defamatory content before it arises, or require urgent advice if a potentially defamatory post has been made against you, contact Andrew Broadbent at Andrew.broadbent@keebles.com or call Andrew on 0114 252 1416.

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