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Defamation Reuters Social Media

Reported defamation cases rise 23%, with social media and internet only news responsible

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By Ishbel Macleod | PR and social media consultant

October 22, 2014 | 2 min read

The number of reported defamation cases in the UK has risen by 23 per cent, research by Thomson Reuters has found.

Roy Greenslade from the Guardian noted that while last year there were 70 cases, this is now up to 86, with 26 of these cases relating to new media channels such as social, internet-only news services, online review sites and text messages.

In 2013, there were only six cases that fell under this bracket.

Keith Mathieson, head of media at City law firm RPC and a contributor to Thomson Reuters' practical law service, told Greenslade: "The increase in claims arising from content on social media and websites reflects the growing impact and importance of new media compared with traditional news providers.

"Many of the new media cases are taken against the individuals responsible for the publications rather than the companies such as Google or Twitter that host the material, as those companies are likely to have special hosting defences, particularly if they take material down following an initial complaint.”

In May last year, a tweet by Sally Bercow was found libellous by the High Court. Bercow was taken to court by Lord McAlpine for tweeting “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*”, following a Newsnight report suggesting that a politician from the Thatcher years had abused boys, which led to McAlpine being falsely accused.

At the end of 2013, Thomson Reuters noted that the number of reported defamation court cases against media companies has reached its lowest point in five years, falling from 48 in 2008/09 to just 20 in 2012/13.

Defamation Reuters Social Media

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