Clarification on defamation from social media comments

17 May 2019

A recent Supreme Court case has provided helpful clarification on defamation from social media posts.

The case concerned comments made by Mrs Stocker about her ex-husband Mr Stocker to his new partner on the social media website, Facebook. These comments included the words: “he tried to strangle me“. In response, Mr Stocker brought a defamation claim because while he admitted he had throttled her he objected to the word “strangle“, because the dictionary definition of strangle includes having an intent to kill, which was not the case.

Mrs Stocker defended the claim. She argued that the word “strangle” was not defamatory because she had not used the word “strangle” in the dictionary sense of intent to kill, she had used the word in its colloquial sense of violently gripping her neck. She claimed that the content of social media posts should be interpreted in this informal context, not by strict dictionary definition.

The Supreme Court found that Mrs Stocker was correct and that words used on social media must be seen in the context in which they are used. Words may be given less weight than if they had been made in a more formal setting, such as a journalist writing in a newspaper.

Caution will always be needed when writing on social media but this case confirms that courts will take a common sense view on what was actually meant by words online.

The dispute resolution team at Trethowans have experience in bringing and defending defamation claims, including assisting businesses with the removal of defamatory content found online. Don’t hesitate to contact our dispute resolution solicitors today onĀ 0800 2800 421.

 

Author

Jennifer Bowes

Senior Associate

Commercial Litigation

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02380 820512