A prominent Premiership footballer is currently attempting to sue the Twitter corporation and persons unknown (i.e. those that have named him in recent Tweets). While Christmas has come very early for his lawyers, the net result has been even more people knowing about his exploits and his name spreading to other social media like Facebook.
The Internet is still seen as the last bastion of free expression, and many of us write blogs, tweet and update websites without thinking through the legal implications of what we say. In 2001, there was a landmark legal case where a lecturer Dr Godfrey successfully sued Demon Internet for not removing a forged message sent in his name. Demon Internet left the offending remark available for 10 additional days after the initial complaint from Dr Godfrey and that oversight cost them over £250 000 in an out of court settlement.
Following Godfrey v Demon, ISPs began to remove defamatory statements as soon as they received a complaint about them, although this has yet to be challenged in court.
It’s quite common and desirable to be passionate in what we write in social media and websites, but perhaps we should be more wary of what we say as English libel laws do apply to information posted on the Internet. Your ISP may intervene to remove an offending remark, but you could also liable for action. In the 2006 case of Keith-Smith versus Williams an individual posting a message on a Yahoo discussion board was successfully sued for her comments.