Supreme Court recognises that social media is a “casual medium” in libel battle
In this long running defamation claim Mrs Stocker posted on Facebook of her husband, Mr Stocker, the words “He tried to strangle me”. Mr Stocker claimed that these words meant that he had tried to kill his wife but she claimed instead that they meant only that he had gripped her neck, inhibiting her breathing so as to put her in fear of being killed, and not that he had intended to kill her.
In defamation claims the Court must identify the ‘natural and ordinary meaning’ of the words complained of. This decision about the meaning of the words is vital as it sets the bar for any defences that might apply. In this case Mrs Stocker pleaded the defence of justification, arguing that her lesser meaning was substantially true. The seriousness of the meaning attributed to the words complained of can therefore be crucial to the success of a libel defence, as a lower meaning will be easier to prove. In identifying the natural and ordinary meaning of words a Court must have regard to what an ordinary reader would have understood the words to mean. The ordinary reader is a hypothetical reasonable reader.
In this case the Supreme Court found that the trial judge in the defamation proceedings was wrong to use definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a guide to the meaning of the words complained of. Instead, consideration should have been given to the context and circumstances in which the Facebook post was made. Lord Kerr acknowledged that the 21st Century brought with it a new class of reader: the ‘social media user’ and that the Court should keep in mind the way in which social media postings and tweets are read by a typical social media user. An online post is not read in the same detail as a newspaper article. By contrast, social media is a “casual medium” and readers of Facebook posts do not subject them to close analysis but merely scroll through them fleetingly. Searching a Facebook post for its theoretical or logically deducible meaning does not realistically take into account what an ordinary reader of the post would have understood the words to mean.
The Supreme Court therefore allowed Mrs Stocker’s appeal, finding that an ordinary reader of the post would have interpreted the post as meaning that Mr Stocker had grasped Mrs Stocker by the throat and applied force to her neck.
Commenting on the judgment, head of NetRights, Laura Baglow, said “It is positive to see that the law of defamation is recognising the informal and impressionistic nature of social media use, rather than focusing on unrealistic technical definitions of casual online posts which are divorced from the context in which they are made and are rooted in more traditional forms of communication”.
Details of the Supreme Court judgment can be found here
Laura Baglow is head of NetRights, the Social Media, Internet and Media law department of Parnalls Solicitors. For legal advice and assistance with social media or internet postings please contact email@example.com or telephone 01566 772375. Find out more about NetRights here
Preparing to sell your Launceston property
Staying safer in video meetings
Making Sure Your Great New Home Comes With Clean Air
Property Market Re-Opens in England
Coronavirus: Wills and Powers of Attorney FAQ
Medical Care Received Not Up to Scratch?
Had an Accident in Someone's Home?
Accident or Injury Involving a Dog?
Social Distancing No Obstacle for Parnall's Mobile Document Signing Team
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Commercial Property Legal FAQs
Rent Charge Suspensions: Protecting Your Interests
Been Asked to Sign an Employment Settlement Agreement? Seek Advice Urgently...
Services Update: Continuity of Legal Service Provision
Advising You in Uncertain Times
Could carelessness on social media land you in court?
Is an electronic signature on a commercial property document acceptable?
What happens when there is no health & care LPA in place
Social Media Training for Businesses
Information to gather for your probate solicitor
Gazundering, what it is and how to avoid it
Relief from forfeiture – what happens if the tenant forgets to pay the rent?
Not so safe at work - compensation for an accident at work
New organ donation law: giving you control
Running a business from home
Have nude photos of you or your teenager been posted online?
Landowners’ rights and the Electronic Communications Code
Building in your back garden
Christmas is a time for giving (and inheritance planning)
Buying the freehold of your leasehold house
Redeveloping an empty pub for commercial use
Why it takes time to obtain the Grant of Probate
Social Media: The unconscious privacy threat
Is your reputation being threatened?
Making a will after your spouse or partner has died
Interns celebrate completion of internship at solicitors
Selling your home in a flat market, some top tips
Claiming compensation for a serious road traffic accident
New Media and Communications Court list reflects surge in internet defamation claims by Laura Baglow
Has your personal information been shared without your permission?
Planning your escape to the country, what you need to consider – part 2
Government consultation on new national model for shared ownership
Choosing a partnership structure
Planning for what happens when you die by Deborah Adams
Changes to legislation could offer protection for tenants in the private rental sector
Move to the country - Part One
The risks of DIY probate
Will your septic tank still be legal in January?
The death knell for ‘kiss and tell’?
Making a will when you retire
Selling your property at auction
Not looking so good - your guide to compensation for botched non-surgical cosmetic procedures
New threshold of seriousness in defamation proceedings
Legal considerations when building a granny annex
Choosing the right person for your power of attorney
Formal Interviews - Do you need legal representation?
Privacy rights and aerial images
Trustees’ duty to give information to beneficiaries
Five problems with a leasehold property
Taking your first commercial lease
Is your organisation protected from employee social media legal risk?
Have you been targeted by negative social media posts?
Farmers be alert when being inspected
Help for House Sellers?
Don’t let your digital assets end up in a digital grave
Valuing an estate for probate
Development proposals and your local authority search
What can you do if your child is injured in a serious accident
NetRights welcomes new protection for social media users
SHOULD I GET A LAWYER FOR A SPEEDING OFFENCE?
Supreme Court recognises that social media is a “casual medium” in libel battle
Choosing the best conveyancer who is right for you
Making a will after a second or subsequent marriage
Option or promotion agreement – which is best for landowners?
Anonymous pub and restaurant online reviews leave a bad taste
Have you had an accident involving a horse?
Help to Buy – beware of some cracks in the structure
Understanding Lasting Powers of Attorney
Changes to Energy Performance Certificate for Landlords
Had a cycling accident? Your route to obtaining compensation
New year, new home: tips to sell your home in the New Year
Tax Planning for your inheritance
Hearing loss: when your employer may be liable
Buying a home for your retirement, five things you need to consider
Farmers plan to diversify after Brexit
Ministers press ahead with probate fee shake-up - reports BBC News
Botched dental treatment? You may be entitled to compensation
Why a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney is a good idea
Will the new charge on building developments in Cornwall affect you?
Energy Performance Certificates – Do They Matter?
HMRC Challenging Stamp Duty Land Tax Payments
Ben Mitchell qualifies as a solicitor
The potential implications of Brexit on employment law
Appointing a guardian for your children
Houses in multiple occupation – new rules from October 2018
New Agriculture Bill published
Will Brexit affect my pension?
Dreaming of a holiday home? Sort out the legals before putting your feet up
Lasting Power of Attorney by Deborah Adams
Settled status after Brexit by Alexis Hager
How to choose an executor to administer your estate when you die
How overage agreements can boost profits from your land
Top tips for first-time buyers
How Could Brexit Affect My Farm?
Wills & Succession in Spain by Deborah Adams
Brexit – an international and local view by Alexis Hager, Litigation
Capital gains tax - important facts for non-residents of the UK
Buying a home: the importance of making sure the seller is entitled to sell
Changing a will after someone has died: it is possible and it could save you money
Your responsibilities when you have people working in your home
Sad passing of Battle of Britain pilot who served with Parnall family member
Considerations when buying a heritage property
Disciplinary proceedings at work: guide for employers
Employers should have a disciplinary process in place, but just following this may not be enough to avoid falling foul of the law and exposing yourself to the risk of an employment tribunal claim.