The number of cases involving online content has more than doubled in the past 12 months, and many believe that social media, especially Twitter, is part of the reason.
As reported in the Independent, online defamation cases have doubled in the UK, and those involving social media specifically have gone from 7 last year to 16 this year. Those numbers might not seem like a lot, but it’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s interesting to note that, while the number of cases is going up, the percentage of celebrities involved – who are notorious for either being the plaintiff or defendant in these cases – have actually decreased by 59 percent, down to 9 in 2011 from 22 in 2009/10.
The Guardian notes that none of the social media-based defamation cases examined in the study involved established media outlets. Rather, they were cases like footballer Ryan Giggs suing Twitter and its users over an apparent super injunction breach, a British politician being forced to pay over £3,000 for defamatory remarks made on Twitter, and a man who is currently being sued for tweets he made about his wife’s adulterous affair.
Of course, the 16 cases currently before the courts involving either Facebook or Twitter are minimal when you think of the billions of status updates and tweet sent each year. It is very unlikely that anyone will actually be sued for something they posted to Twitter or Facebook – but the legal precedents are currently being established to make it increasingly possible in the future. Be careful what you tweet!