Social media has reduced the time in which news can travel around the planet to tenths of a second, but this also means that harassment, bullying, defamation and character attacks can also happen in real-time.
The first port of call will usually be reporting the material to the social media platform itself. Most platforms have their own policies and community guidelines that users must abide by. Content which breaches these policies may be taken down and the accounts of the users who published them may be suspended. Of course, different platforms deal with complaints with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Can I, and should I, make a statement?
In some situations, a well-drafted and timely response can cool down tensions. Our specialist team can help advise on the best approach to making such statements.
If these attempts to have the content removed are ineffective, you may want to pursue legal remedies.
What will I have a claim for?
There are several actions you can pursue if you have been attacked online. If the publication causes serious harm to your reputation, you may have a defamation or malicious falsehood case.
Harassment is appropriate where the perpetrator has targeted you in a course of conduct that is causing alarm or distress.
Breach of confidence and misuse of private information might be suitable depending on the content of the publication. Where the information shared was initially disclosed in a confidential manner, then the claimant may have a cause of action under breach of confidence. Where the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the disclosed information, they may have a claim in misuse of private information.
Our team at Atkins Dellow will be able to advise on the most appropriate claim(s) to pursue, based on the specific facts of your case.
Who do I go after?
If the author of the statement is easily identifiable, for example through their public account or social media presence, it will be possible to file the claim against them. However, sometimes the origins of the statement may be unclear. In these cases, it may be possible to seek a Norwich Pharmaceutical Order from the court requiring the social media company to disclose the identity of the publisher. It may also be appropriate to use private online forensic investigators to unmask the culprit. However, both options are costly and the former relies on the court’s permission.
A more effective alternative may be instead to sue the social media company itself. If they have knowledge of the content and have not taken action against it, they may also be liable.
Where do I sue?
If the publisher or the social media company are based in the UK, it may be possible to file a claim in the High Court. In complex multi-jurisdictional matters, we are able to offer tailored advice on the most effective strategy for pursuing obtaining a remedy.
Seeking Legal Advice
We understand that online attacks and abuse are some of the most stressful and intrusive types of harm.
It is important to stay calm, but act quickly and retain evidence of the publication itself, any comments and direct communications that you receive as a result.
If you would like more specific information about how you can respond to negative publications online, please get in touch with our Reputation & Media Team, who can advice on seeking remedies. For more information about the firm click the link below or call 0330 912 8338.