Social Media – The new press?

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Posted in:HR and Employment|March 28, 2012 | Join the mailing list

The Courts have now embraced the use of social media as the modern form of communication with English Courts allowing documents to be served via Facebook for the first time. A further development this month has now seen the first
English libel case based on a comment made on social networking site Twitter.

Cricketer Chris Cairns won £90,000 in libel damages and a further £400,000 in costs in this landmark case. Although the Court has allowed the Defendant to appeal the amount of damages, he has not been given permission to dispute his liability. Further the Defendant’s
argument that bringing the case in England was a form of libel tourism was also rejected. But the question now is; what does this verdict mean?

The result has shown two things; firstly, that provided a Claimant can show a viable connection to England then the global nature of Twitter does not exclude the English Courts from assuming jurisdiction. The second and more important point for businesses is
that a 24 word Twitter comment has been given the same status as a comment made in traditional press.

With Twitter being given the same recognition as traditional press it is time for businesses to become aware of their internet footprint. Do employers know what their employees say on the internet? Does your company use social media to raise their profile?
Is your company name being used in internet blogs? Given the increasing recognition the Courts are giving to social media there is now a real threat for potential Court action if social media is being used in a damaging way.

This case not only has repercussions in the litigation world but is much more extensive. HR departments have to combat the potential threat of social media by drafting new company policies to incorporate potential internet use. Lawyers need to be alert to a
new medium for libel claims and businesses in general need to be aware of how their brand is being used on the internet.

Whilst companies continue to embrace social media to promote their brand to potential clients; it is vital that businesses are alert to the risks of using this new form of communication.

To discuss how we can provide further advice in connection with these issues, please contact Damian Carter, a Partner in our Litigation Team, by email to
or alternatively you can call Damian on 0161 833 9211.

The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No responsibility for this article’s (or the above link’s) accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any
of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of the contents of this article.

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