Every situation is different so by far the best way to find out how to respond to a social media legal issue is to speak to those who are most likely to have dealt with a situation similar to yours.
To find out how you can improve your reputation on the internet simply select one of the easy methods of contacting us.
Internet defamation lawyer
There are many defamation lawyers in London but there are only a handful who truly understand with clarity social media and the internet. It is often the case that the merits of your defamation case should be assessed by your lawyer through different angles and having a strong defamation case in law, is only one of them.
Before embarking on a full scale defamation case, which could lead to a glorious victory, but at the risk of further dissemination of the defamatory statements through reporting by the press of the defamation proceedings, we will work with you on what winning your defamation case means to you. The internet is full of reputational risks and whilst it is possible to have them all supressed, winning a defamation claim on its own is often insufficient. This is particularly true if the defamation has spread, or is likely to be spread across websites, social media and jurisdictions. To truly win a defamation claim, you will need something more than your defamation lawyer’s strategy to win your defamation court case.
Some of the most recognised defamation solicitors and barristers in the UK will focus on winning your defamation case in court, but this wouldn’t necessarily mean that you “won” your defamation case. When it comes to defamation on the internet, your court case is one battle of many. Winning a defamation case is great, but often insufficient. There are other battles to be won and your defamation lawyer will plan your case so that each battle, with search engines, with social media companies and over public opinion is fought and won, hard and smart.
When it comes to defamation on the internet, you can never tell for sure what those who wish you harm are up to. They might be planning and plotting, preparing and conspiring which means your defamation lawyer must be at least be one step ahead throughout your representation.
The sooner you seek the right legal advice, the better the outcome of your case is likely to be. When a team of dedicated defamation lawyers successfully prevents articles and internet posts appearing online in the first place, the credit for this success should be given to our intelligent clients who have the wisdom to act fast.
We are outcome focused. It is too easy for a defamation lawyer to get carried away and perhaps forget about what the objective is all about. Vindications, apologies, payment of damages and defamation injunctions are instruments that your defamation lawyer could use to help you achieve your gaols. The pursue of a defamation case isn't to obtain a defamation injunction, for example, but to bring you a peace of mind and a satisfactory closure to an unpleasant ordeal.
An outcome focused approach, also means that we constantly look at ways to close any gaps that might end up undermining your achievements. An outcome focused approach also means that the solution must fit within your budget and that the strategy for winning your defamation case must be tailor planned for you and for your needs and abilities.
Finally, an outcome focused approach to winning defamation cases, means that we always assign the right defamation lawyer to meet the needs of your case. We make sure that only specialists and experienced defamation lawyers work on our clients’ cases and that the experience must be related to our clients’ current defamation issue.
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What to do if you are subjected to false allegations of sexual assault on Instagram
One major issue that has become increasingly common is the rise of false allegations of sexual assault on Instagram. While the platform has been a powerful tool for genuine victims to share their stories and seek support, it has also been used by individuals to make unfounded claims of sexual assault against others. These false accusations can have devastating consequences for both the accused and the credibility of genuine victims.
Furthermore, the ease of sharing information on Instagram means that these allegations can quickly go viral, causing irreparable damage to a person's reputation. As such, it is crucial to address this issue and understand the impact of false accusations on both the accused and the larger community. In this article, we will delve into the prevalence of false allegations of sexual assault on Instagram, the potential motivations behind them, and the steps that can be taken to combat this troubling trend.
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Defamation by innuendo in the digital age
Defamation by innuendo refers to misleading implications in statements that can subtly damage a person's reputation without making direct accusations. The vast and rapid spread of information online, coupled with a tendency for sensationalism, makes such indirect defamation particularly harmful on the internet. Essentially, it's like whispering rumors, but on a global scale, where insinuations can be mistaken for truths.
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In this article, we look at a special case where a newspaper journalist from outside the UK is accused of defamation. Defamation means saying or writing something false about someone that harms their reputation. This case study shows how tricky it can be to take legal action in the UK against a newspaper that's based in another country. We'll talk about the different challenges, like dealing with laws from different places and figuring out which country's courts can make decisions. This situation gets even more complicated because of how easily news can spread across the world online.
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Legal help for false accusations of sexual assault online
Being falsely accused of any crime is a devastating experience, but the impact of false sexual assault allegations can be particularly damaging.
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False allegations of sexual assault on social media
In this libel defamation case, Yair Cohen and Filiz Kiani of Cohen Davis Solicitors represented Jack Aaronson, also known as Dominic Ford, where he took Marcus Stones, popularly known as Mickey Taylor to court. The case, presided over by Mr Justice Julian Knowles at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, shed light on the power of social media and the consequences of false accusations. Let's delve into the facts of the case and the judge's ruling.
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How to overcome online defamation and restore your reputation
If you’re struggling to remove defamatory content posted about you online, or are seeking legal help regarding this issue, read the following case study to grasp how our firm cam help you.
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How can a business defend itself against defamation online
What happens when a business is being defamed online? Can anything be done about it or free speech is king? The following case study gives some answers to these questions by considering a typical situation of online defamation which small and medium size business often face.
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Anonymous Internet defamation: what to do
The challenge of addressing online defamation is exacerbated when the perpetrator hides behind the veil of anonymity. However, with the evolving digital landscape, there are systematic measures and legal tools that can help unveil the identity of such defamers and protect the reputation of the aggrieved party. Here's an overview of what to do when confronted with anonymous internet defamation.
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Our initial strategy involves scouring publicly accessible resources to pinpoint potential identifiers of the defamer. This might include looking into digital footprints, metadata, or even patterns in the content that might hint at the identity. When confronted with the challenge of anonymous online defamation, having an experienced team at your side can make all the difference. Over the years, we have fine-tuned our strategies and leveraged cutting-edge technologies to identify anonymous defamers and protect the reputations of our clients. Here's a deeper look into our expertise and the nuanced approach we employ in this specialized field. Years of handling numerous cases have honed our ability to expertly navigate a myriad of publicly available resources. These databases, forums, and platforms often contain a wealth of information that, when analysed correctly, can lead directly or indirectly to the defamer.
Everyone leaves a trace online, and our team is adept at reading and interpreting these digital breadcrumbs. Whether it's a specific style of writing, the timing of posts, or the kind of platforms used, we can identify patterns that help pinpoint an individual or, at the very least, narrow down the pool of potential suspects. Often overlooked, metadata — the data about data — can be a goldmine of information. Every digital interaction, be it a photo upload, a comment, or a blog post, comes embedded with metadata. This can include timestamps, device information, location details, and more. Our team has the tools and know-how to extract and interpret this data, often revealing crucial clues about the defamer's identity.
Content Pattern Recognition
Beyond the digital data, the content itself can offer significant insights. Our team includes experts trained in content analysis. They can detect nuances, writing styles, recurring themes, or specific terminologies used by the defamer, which can hint at their background, motivations, or identity. What sets us apart is our collaborative approach. We combine the expertise of IT professionals, content analysts, and legal experts to provide a comprehensive solution. This synergy ensures that while our tech team delves into the digital aspects, our legal team is ready to act on the information obtained.
Collaborative suspect identification
While we harness technological methods, understanding the context and any potential motivations is crucial. We'll engage in a collaborative discussion with you to identify any potential suspects based on the nature and content of the defamation. In the maze of digital anonymity, successfully unmasking online defamers often requires more than just technological expertise. One of the most potent tools at our disposal is collaboration.
By joining forces with those affected by defamation, we amplify our chances of uncovering the identity of the perpetrator. Let's delve deeper into our collaborative suspect identification process. Though we employ state-of-the-art technological methods, they serve as just one part of our comprehensive approach.
Real insights often come from blending machine-driven data with human perspectives. By understanding the personal or business context surrounding the defamation, we can refine our search parameters and make our identification processes more precise. At the heart of our collaborative approach are personalised consultation sessions with our clients. These dialogues provide:
- • Background Information: Understanding any past conflicts, competitors, or disgruntled individuals can offer context.
- • Specific Incidents: Pinpointing any recent events or changes that might have triggered the defamation helps narrow down the timeline and, potentially, the pool of suspects.
- • Tone & Style: Is the tone personal, hinting at someone with a personal grudge? Or does it sound more professional, suggesting a competitor or someone from within the industry?
- • Inside Information: Does the content have details that only certain individuals would know? This can be instrumental in zeroing in on a narrow group of suspects.
Understanding the 'why' can often lead us to the 'who'. By discussing potential motivations behind the defamation with our clients, we can develop theories about the defamer's objectives, be it financial gain, personal vendetta, business rivalry, or mere mischief.
Beyond formal consultation sessions, we believe in the power of collaborative brainstorming. By bringing together our team of experts and the insights provided by the client, we foster an environment of creative problem-solving. Such sessions often lead to unexpected breakthroughs in suspect identification.
If preliminary efforts don't yield a definitive identification, we resort to more forceful legal tools:
- Disclosure Orders: These compel online platforms, be it website operators, email providers, or social media platforms, to disclose any relevant information they have about the defamer's identity.
- Subpoenas: A legal demand for information or testimony against a party, it obligates service providers to share information about anonymous users. Sometimes, even with our best efforts, the identity of the person spreading harmful information about you online remains hidden. When that happens, we rely on stronger legal methods, like Disclosure Orders and Subpoenas, to help reveal the person responsible.
A Disclosure Order is like an official request from the court, which we can give to companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, or even your email provider. This request tells them they need to share any information they have that could help us figure out who is defaming you online. This can include things like usernames, IP addresses (a unique address that identifies a device on the internet), or when and where they logged in.
A subpoena is another kind of request from the court, but usually from a court in the US or Canada. When we give a subpoena to a company or a person, they must provide the information we ask for, or they could get into trouble with the court. This can help us get information about the anonymous person causing you trouble. In simple terms, Disclosure Orders and Subpoenas are powerful tools we can use when we need more help finding the anonymous person defaming you online. Think of them like keys that can unlock doors and give us access to the information we need to protect your reputation.
When faced with particularly elusive defamers who skilfully hide their tracks online, we are not deterred. Our commitment to safeguarding your reputation remains unwavering, and in such challenging circumstances, we seek the assistance of the judiciary, which can be a game-changer. Let's explore the steps we take when moving things into the legal arena. An injunction is a legal tool that prohibits or commands certain actions. When we ask the court for an injunction against an anonymous online user:
- It serves as a direct message to the defamer, urging them to halt their damaging actions.
- Beyond the individual, it acts as a strong deterrent to others who might consider engaging in such malicious behaviour, sending a clear signal that consequences await those who spread false information online.
Merely obtaining an injunction isn't enough; its effectiveness lies in how and where it's enforced:
- Targeting the source: The platform where the defamatory content is hosted, whether it's a blog, forum, or social media site, will be directly served with the injunction. This obligates them to take prompt action, usually resulting in the removal or deactivation of the harmful content.
- Engaging search engines: We go a step further by serving the injunction to major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. This ensures that even if, for some reason, the content remains online, it doesn't show up when someone searches for your name or business. Essentially, it becomes like a tree falling in an empty forest; if no one sees it, it minimises the damage.
While we always hope to resolve defamation issues without resorting to the courts, our priority is to protect your reputation by any means necessary. In those rare instances where traditional methods don't yield results, legal injunctions become our shield and sword, helping us ensure that harmful content is quelled and your reputation remains untarnished.
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Can you be prosecuted for defamation?
In the UK, while defamation itself doesn't lead to criminal prosecution, certain circumstances surrounding a defamation incident might still involve the criminal courts.
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In the UK, defamation is only considered a civil wrongdoing. Defamation being treated as a civil wrongdoing means that the matter is primarily resolved through civil litigation, where the injured party (the person whose reputation was harmed) can initiate a civil lawsuit against the alleged defamer (the person who made the false statement). However, if the defamation also includes elements of harassment, as was the case in the case of the web developer Paul Britton and his company Origin Design who harassed and defamed one of their customers with whom they had a financial dispute, it is possible to bring a successful criminal prosecution for harassment first, and then follow it through with a successful claim for defamation.
Defamation and harassment are two distinct legal issues, and their definitions and consequences differ. Defamation typically concerns itself with false statements that harm a person's reputation, while harassment deals with persistent unwanted behaviour intended to cause alarm or distress. However, situations can arise where the two overlap.
Absolutely. In many legal jurisdictions, it's possible to take someone to court for both defamation and harassment, although the approach and strategy might differ based on the specifics of the case and the legal system in place. One critical factor to consider is the statute of limitations. For defamation claims, in many places, you have a limited window – often only 12 months – to initiate legal action from the date the defamatory statement was made or published.
Therefore, timing is of the essence when considering legal recourse. If someone has harassed you and, as part of that harassment, made defamatory statements about you, it might be strategic to first address the harassment in a criminal court. Harassment, being a course of conduct that causes alarm or distress, might be easier to prove criminally, especially if there's a pattern of behaviour or clear evidence of intent. Once you've successfully secured a conviction in the criminal court for harassment, this verdict can bolster your subsequent civil claim for defamation. The conviction serves as a potent piece of evidence, indicating the defendant's malicious intent and propensity to use falsehoods as a weapon to cause distress.
Yes, you can. A good demonstration of this is the case that our firm took against the web developer, Paul Britton, and his company, Origin Design. The Paul Britton case marked a legal milestone in the UK. It became the first instance where an online troll was held accountable for his harassing and defamatory actions on two distinct occasions: once in the realm of criminal law, and then again in the civil legal system. Paul Britton, a web developer by profession and owner of a web development company, found himself entangled in a disagreement with one of his clients, a certain Mr. Phipps.
The root of their dispute revolved around a £200 charge for a job that, according to Mr. Phipps, was not executed to the agreed-upon standards. Instead of addressing the grievance directly, Mr. Britton chose to escalate the matter by filing a suit against Mr. Phipps in the small claims court. However, this legal move was just the beginning of a series of vindictive actions. Concurrently, Britton embarked on a sinister campaign against Mr. Phipps. He created multiple bogus websites that maliciously and falsely portrayed Mr. Phipps as a paedophile. This cruel smear campaign was not only damaging to Mr. Phipps's reputation but also caused him considerable emotional distress.
Though Mr. Phipps was confident that Britton was the mastermind behind these defamatory websites, gathering concrete evidence to substantiate this belief posed a significant challenge. The police, too, found themselves at a similar impasse, unable to conclusively link Britton to the digital onslaught against Phipps. Despite these challenges, the case would eventually become a precedent-setter. Paul Britton faced justice in the criminal court for his online harassment and, once convicted, had to answer for his actions again in a separate civil case in the High Court. The outcome served as a powerful reminder about the consequences of online harassment and the significance of digital responsibility.
They were embroiled in a controversy that combined elements of both defamation and harassment. Initially, there was a financial dispute between the company and one of its customers. Instead of resolving this issue through traditional means, Britton and Origin Design took to making false statements that damaged the customer's reputation, thereby engaging in defamation. However, it didn't stop at just false claims. The actions of Brittton and his company extended beyond mere statements. They continually targeted the customer with persistent unwanted behaviour that was intended to intimidate, distress, and annoy.
This repeated troubling conduct is characteristic of harassment. Given the dual nature of their actions, it was feasible for the affected party to pursue a two-pronged legal approach. First, they could potentially initiate a criminal prosecution based on harassment. Criminal harassment charges focus on the psychological or emotional trauma and the direct harm caused by the unwanted behaviour. Once this has been addressed, the aggrieved party can then pivot towards seeking redress for the defamation, focusing on the reputational damage caused by false statements.
The case of Britton and Origin Design is significant because it involved a double prosecution, both criminal and civil, for harassment in the UK. The case revolved around Mr. Britton, the owner of a web developing company, who had a dispute with one of his clients, Mr. Phipps, over unsatisfactory work. In retaliation, Mr. Britton created fake websites falsely accusing Mr. Phipps of being a paedophile. The significance of this case lies in the fact that Mr. Phipps' reputation was severely damaged, leading to the loss of his business and the deterioration of his mental health.
Yair Cohen, a social media lawyer, took on Mr. Phipps' case and obtained evidence that proved Mr. Britton's involvement in the harassing websites. This evidence, including an audio recording, was handed over to the police, resulting in Mr. Britton's conviction for harassment and a prison sentence. Furthermore, Yair Cohen initiated civil proceedings against Mr. Britton for harassment and defamation, which Mr. Britton lost. As a result, he had to pay substantial damages to Mr. Phipps, cover his legal costs, and provide him with an apology. This case highlights the importance of holding individuals accountable for their actions online and the potential consequences they may face in both criminal and civil courts.
This case was reported in the press
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Our lawyers answer questions about defamation law in the UK
Below are some of the most common questions clients have asked us concerning defamation law in the UK. Remember, the intricacies of defamation law can be complex, and anyone dealing with such issues should seek advice from a legal professional who is familiar with the facts of their specific case to understand their rights and potential actions fully.
The cost of a defamation case in the UK can vary greatly depending on various factors, such as the nature and complexity of the case, the length of time it takes to complete, and the individuals involved. For straightforward cases, it may cost under £5,000 if the situation can be resolved with a detailed letter before legal action. The defamation cease and desist letter before legal action would effectively pre-empt any realistic chance for the respondent to defend their defamatory actions. Investing in a well-drafted letter before legal action can be worthwhile, as it may lead to an early settlement without the necessity for protracted and expensive legal proceedings. However, for complex defamation cases, the costs could escalate to £50,000 or more.
The complexity of a case can arise from intricate legal issues and a large volume of evidence. Simultaneously, some cases might seem straightforward, but they might involve a difficult respondent who chooses to represent himself. Legal proceedings against a litigant in person (someone who represents themselves without a lawyer) can often increase costs, as the court expects the claimant to comply with procedural matters, which under normal circumstances would be shared between both parties. It's essential to bear in mind that these are broad estimates and actual costs can vary. Always consult with a legal professional for accurate information related to your specific circumstances.
While the term "illegal" usually refers to actions that are prohibited by law and can result in criminal penalties, defamation in the UK doesn't strictly fall under this category. In other words, defamation is not a criminal act in the UK, and therefore, it isn't considered "illegal" in the traditional sense. However, defamation can be considered unlawful, meaning that it can lead to civil legal consequences.
If a person defames someone else, they can be taken to a civil court, where the claimant could potentially win an injunction, compensation, and other remedies. It's important to note, though, that in some cases where defamation is published with an intention to harass the victim, the situation can be viewed differently.
If the defamatory activities meet the threshold for harassment, this can potentially involve criminal law. In such a scenario, the police could take legal action against the person committing the defamation, making it a criminal, hence "illegal", act. You can read more here about online defamation and harassment.
If you believe you've been defamed in the UK, you'll need to prove several key elements to establish your case. Here's what you need to demonstrate:
- The statement was defamatory: The comment or material must lower you in the estimation of right-thinking members of society. This means that it negatively affects your reputation in a substantial way. You can read more here about how the court works out a defamatory meaning of a publication.
- The statement caused or is likely to cause, ‘serious harm’ to you: Introduced with the Defamation Act 2013, the 'serious harm' requirement means that the statement must have caused or will likely cause significant damage to your reputation. If you're a business, you must also prove financial loss.
- The statement refers to you: You need to show that the defamatory statement was about you. It is not always necessary for you to be named; it is enough if you can be identified in some other way.
- The statement was published: Publication, in the context of defamation, means the communication of the defamatory statement to at least one person other than you. It could be through various means such as speech, writing, or some form of broadcast.
- There is no lawful justification or other defence: The defendant may try to use defences like truth (the statement was true), honest opinion (the statement was a viewpoint that could be honestly held based on the facts), or public interest (it was in the public interest to make the statement). If these or other defences can't be established, then you'll have a stronger case.
These are complex legal matters, and each defamation case is unique. If you feel you've been defamed, it's recommended that you consult with a legal professional to guide you through the process and help present the strongest possible case.
Defending a defamation claim in the UK involves asserting one of several established legal defences. These defences are based on principles of free speech, fairness, and the public interest. Here are the main defences:
The Defence of Truth:
This is a complete defence to a defamation claim. If the defendant can prove that the statement made about the claimant was true, or substantially true, then this defence will succeed. In UK defamation law, truth is a complete defence to a claim of defamation. This means that if a defendant (the person accused of defamation) can prove that the allegedly defamatory statement they made about the claimant (the person alleging defamation) was true or substantially true, then the defence will succeed and they will not be liable for defamation. Here are the key aspects of this defence:
- Whole truth or substantial truth: It's important to note that the statement does not need to be entirely true to qualify for this defence. The test is one of substantial truth. This means that if the 'sting' or main substance of the statement is true, even if some minor details are not, the defence can still be successful. For example, if the defendant makes a statement saying that the claimant was convicted of a crime on a specific date, but they got the date wrong, the defence of truth would still apply if the claimant was indeed convicted of the crime.
- The burden of proof: Unlike some other defences, the burden of proof here rests with the defendant. It's the defendant's responsibility to provide evidence to prove the truth or substantial truth of the statement. This can involve presenting documents, witness testimony, or any other evidence that supports the truth of the statement.
- No need to prove public benefit or good intentions: The defence of truth doesn't require the defendant to show that their statement was in the public interest or that they had good intentions in making it. The only thing that matters is the truth or substantial truth of the statement.
In summary, the defence of truth provides a robust protection for defendants in defamation cases. However, it's not without its complexities, and it requires careful handling and often detailed evidence. If you're involved in a defamation case and are considering using the defence of truth, it's usually advisable to seek professional legal advice to understand your rights and options.
The Defence of Honest Opinion:
This defence applies if the defendant can demonstrate that the statement was an expression of their honestly held opinion rather than a statement of fact. It must be based on any fact that existed at the time the statement was published or anything asserted to be a fact in a privileged statement. The defence of honest opinion is another crucial defence in UK defamation law. The goal of this defence is to protect freedom of speech and to allow for the expression of opinions that may be critical or harsh, so long as they are honestly held.
To successfully use this defence, a defendant (the person accused of defamation) must meet the following requirements:
- Statement of Opinion: The defendant must prove that the statement in question was a statement of opinion and not a statement of fact. This can sometimes be a complex task, as it can be difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion in some instances. Usually, it needs to be clear to an average reader or listener that what is being expressed is an opinion.
- Basis in Fact: The opinion must be based on facts that existed at the time the statement was published. These facts must be indicated in the statement or be generally known. If the basis for the opinion is not clear, the defendant may need to provide additional evidence to show that their opinion was grounded in fact.
- Honest Belief: The defendant must have honestly held the opinion they expressed at the time of publication. It's important to note that this does not mean the opinion needs to be reasonable, fair, or balanced. Even if others find the opinion extreme, absurd, or highly prejudiced, so long as it's an honestly held opinion, the defence can still be successful.
- Reasonable Person Test: A reasonable person must be able to consider the statement as an opinion based on the underlying facts.
For example, a restaurant reviewer might make negative comments about a meal they had at a restaurant. If the restaurant owner sued for defamation, the reviewer could potentially use the defence of honest opinion, as long as they could show that their negative comments were based on the actual meal they had eaten, and were not invented or exaggerated beyond what they honestly thought about it. Like all defences to defamation, the application of the honest opinion defence will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Therefore, if you find yourself involved in a defamation case, whether as a claimant or a defendant, it's advisable to seek professional legal advice.
The Defence of Privilege (Absolute or Qualified):
Privilege protects certain types of communication from defamation claims. Absolute privilege applies to certain proceedings, such as those in Parliament or in court, where the need for free speech outweighs the potential for defamation. Qualified privilege protects the communication of potentially defamatory statements made in the public interest, provided the communication was not made maliciously.
The Defence of Publication on Matter of Public Interest:
If the defendant can show that the statement was on a matter of public interest and they reasonably believed that publishing the statement was in the public interest, this defence may apply. The defence of privilege is another fundamental aspect of UK defamation law, aimed at balancing the need to protect individuals' reputations with the need for free and frank discussion in certain contexts.
Absolute privilege offers total protection against defamation claims, regardless of the motive behind the statement. This means that the person making the statement could knowingly say something false or defamatory, and yet not be liable for defamation. Absolute privilege applies to certain proceedings where it is deemed essential that participants can speak openly without fear of legal consequences. This includes:
- Statements made in the course of parliamentary proceedings, including speeches by Members of Parliament and witnesses giving evidence to parliamentary committees.
- Statements made in court, or in documents prepared for court proceedings, such as witness testimonies, affidavits, or pleadings.
- Statements made in certain other legal proceedings, such as public inquiries or disciplinary hearings of professional bodies.
Qualified privilege offers protection for potentially defamatory statements made in other contexts, where it's considered to be in the public interest that people should be able to speak freely. This can include:
- Media reports of certain public proceedings or official statements.
- Statements made by individuals in the performance of a legal, social, or moral duty, such as a reference given by an employer.
- Fair and accurate reports of public meetings or press conferences.
However, qualified privilege is 'qualified' because it can be defeated if the claimant can prove that the statement was made with malice, meaning the defendant knew the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard for its truth. As with all defamation defences, the specific application of the privilege defence depends on the circumstances of each case. If you're involved in a defamation claim, it's strongly recommended to seek legal advice to understand how these defences could be applied.
The Defence of Innocent Dissemination:
This defence is available to those who, in the course of a business, unknowingly and without negligence, published defamatory material authored by a third party. This could include an internet service provider or a bookseller. The defence of innocent dissemination is particularly relevant in the age of digital communication, where many businesses are involved in the transmission, hosting, or distribution of third-party content.
In UK defamation law, the defence of innocent dissemination is available to individuals or organisations that have, in the course of their business, unknowingly and without negligence, facilitated the publication of defamatory material authored by a third party. This defence is often used by intermediaries such as booksellers, librarians, internet service providers (ISPs), or website operators. These entities may distribute or host vast amounts of content but have limited or no control over its creation. To successfully invoke the defence of innocent dissemination, a defendant must generally show the following:
- They did not author or edit the defamatory content.
- They were not involved in the decision to publish the defamatory content.
- They were not negligent in relation to the publication of the defamatory content.
- They did not know, and had no reason to believe, that they were contributing to the publication of defamatory content.
For instance, suppose an ISP hosts a website that contains a defamatory statement posted by a user. In that case, the ISP might be able to use the defence of innocent dissemination if it can prove it had no knowledge of the defamatory content and acted promptly to remove it once notified. However, if it's demonstrated that the defendant ought to have known that the material was likely to be defamatory, or if they failed to take action when the defamation was brought to their attention, they may not be able to use this defence. It's important to note that the specifics of each case can greatly influence the application of the innocent dissemination defence. Given the complexities of defamation law, it's generally advisable to seek legal advice if you find yourself involved in a defamation case.
The Defence of Consent:
If the claimant consented to the publication of the statement, the defendant cannot be held liable for defamation. Remember, the application of these defences will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. If you find yourself involved in a defamation case, whether as a claimant or defendant, it's always wise to seek legal advice. Consent is an absolute defence to a defamation claim. This means that if a person (the claimant) gave their permission for the allegedly defamatory statement to be published, the person who made the statement (the defendant) cannot be held liable for defamation.
The rationale behind this defence is that it would be unjust to allow a person to sue for defamation when they have freely permitted the publication of the statement in question. Essentially, if you've agreed to the statement being made public, you can't then complain about the damage it does to your reputation. The consent must be freely given, and it must be clear that the claimant was fully aware of the nature of the statement when they gave their consent. The defendant would generally need to provide some evidence to demonstrate that they had the claimant's consent.
This defence can apply in various contexts. For example, if a person agrees to an interview for a magazine article or a documentary, knowing that certain potentially defamatory statements about them will be included, they may be considered to have consented to the publication of those statements.
However, the application of the consent defence, like all defences to defamation, will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. For instance, the scope of the consent and the context in which it was given can all be relevant factors. If consent was obtained through deception or under duress, it may not be valid.
In the realm of defamation laws, it's important to clarify that there isn't a strict "test" as such, particularly given the varying laws across different jurisdictions. However, in the UK, establishing defamation involves satisfying several critical elements as per the Defamation Act 2013.
For a statement to be legally considered defamatory, its publication must have resulted in or have a likelihood to cause significant harm to the reputation of the claimant. The statement must essentially lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society, cause them to be shunned or avoided, or expose them to hatred, ridicule, or contempt. The statement must also refer to the claimant and have been published to a third party. This means it must have been made known to someone other than the person making the statement and the person the statement is about. If the claimant is a trading corporation, it must also prove that the statement has caused, or is likely to cause, serious financial loss.
Moreover, the claimant must be able to overcome any defences the defendant might raise, such as truth, honest opinion, or privilege. Therefore, rather than a single legal 'test', proving defamation involves satisfying these interconnected elements.
In the process of a defamation case, the initial step entails demonstrating that the statement under scrutiny is indeed defamatory. A defamatory statement holds the potential to inflict harm on the reputation of an individual or a corporation. This could be brought about in various ways.
For example, the statement might incite feelings of hatred, ridicule, or contempt towards the person or entity to which it refers. This could lead to a situation where the individual or corporation is shunned or avoided by others due to the negativity associated with the statement. Alternatively, a defamatory statement might lower the subject in the estimation of 'right-thinking' members of society.
This can effectively undermine their standing or reputation in their community or industry. Thus, a statement that fulfils any of these criteria can be classified as defamatory within the scope of UK law.
The Statement Refers to the Claimant:
The statement must be about, or refer to, the claimant. It's not necessary for the claimant to be specifically named if they can be identified in some other way. In the context of UK defamation law, establishing that a statement is defamatory is the initial step in the process. A defamatory statement is one which has the potential to injure the reputation of an individual or a corporation. This potential harm could manifest itself in various ways.
For instance, a defamatory statement could expose the person or entity in question to feelings of hatred, ridicule, or contempt from others. Similarly, such a statement might lead to the person or entity being shunned or avoided by others due to the negative image portrayed by the statement. Furthermore, a defamatory statement could lower the individual or entity in the estimation of 'right-thinking' members of society, thereby negatively affecting their standing or reputation. In essence, if a statement fulfils any of these criteria, it can be considered defamatory under UK law.
The Statement has been Published:
The defamatory statement must have been published or communicated to a third party. In defamation law, "published" means that someone other than the person making the statement and the person the statement is about has seen, heard, or read it.
In terms of defamation law in the UK, the requirement for a statement to be considered published is that it must have been communicated or made available to a third party. This means that the alleged defamatory statement must have been seen, heard, or read by someone who is neither the person making the statement, nor the individual or entity the statement is about.
Essentially, this suggests that the potentially harmful statement has been shared or disseminated in some way beyond the parties directly involved in the statement's creation and its subject. This dissemination could be via various means, such as print, broadcast, or online platforms. The concept of publication in defamation law highlights the fact that defamation involves damage to a person's or entity's reputation in the eyes of others.
The claimant must demonstrate that the defamatory statement has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to their reputation. If the claimant is a for-profit business, they must also show that the statement has caused or is likely to cause them serious financial loss.
A pivotal aspect of a defamation claim under UK law is demonstrating serious harm. This requires the claimant, or the person alleging defamation, to provide evidence that the defamatory statement has caused or has a likelihood of causing severe damage to their reputation. The idea behind this requirement is to ensure that the courts only deal with cases where substantial damage has occurred, and not trivial matters. Serious harm may manifest in various ways, such as damaging the individual's personal or professional relationships or standing in the community.
When the claimant is a for-profit business entity, there is an additional requirement to demonstrate that the defamatory statement has led to, or there is a high chance it will lead to severe financial loss. This element recognises that for businesses, harm to reputation often translates directly into monetary damage. This could be through loss of clients or customers, decreased business opportunities, or increased costs due to the need to mitigate the damage caused by the defamatory statement.
Once these elements have been established, the burden shifts to the defendant, who might then attempt to avail one of several defences, including truth, honest opinion, privilege (absolute or qualified), and public interest. If a defendant can successfully establish one of these defences, they may avoid liability.
The difficulty of winning a defamation case can depend largely on the jurisdiction in which the case is brought. The UK and the US, for example, have different defamation laws and standards of proof which can impact the ease or difficulty of winning a case. Defamation Law in the UK vs the US: In the UK, the burden of proof generally falls on the defendant. This means that if someone sues you for defamation, it is up to you as the defendant to prove that your statement was true, or that it is protected by another defence such as honest opinion or privilege.
The UK law also does not distinguish between public and private figures when considering defamation cases, meaning everyone is given the same level of protection. On the other hand, in the US, the burden of proof typically falls on the plaintiff (the one who is claiming defamation). This is especially true when the plaintiff is a public figure, like a politician or a celebrity. In such cases, they not only have to prove that the statement was false and defamatory but also that it was made with "actual malice" - meaning the person who made the statement knew it was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.
This can make defamation cases harder to win in the US, especially for public figures. Impact of Trial by Judge vs Trial by Jury: In the UK, defamation cases are usually tried by a judge alone, whereas in the US, they're often tried by a jury. This can impact the outcome of a case, as individual biases can influence judgement. In the UK, a judge, who is a legal expert, makes the decision based on the facts presented and the law. This can provide a more consistent and predictable outcome, but it's also subject to the interpretation and discretion of a single individual. In the US, a jury, typically consisting of 12 ordinary citizens, decides the case.
This means the decision is based on the collective judgement of a group of people, which could arguably be more balanced and less likely to be influenced by a single individual's point of view. However, this can also lead to less predictability, as the decision is more likely to be influenced by the personal experiences and biases of the jurors.
In conclusion, it can be easier to win a defamation case in the UK compared to the US due to the differences in defamation laws, standards of proof, and trial methods. However, each case is unique and the outcome will always depend on the specific circumstances. Anyone dealing with a potential defamation claim should seek legal advice to understand their rights and potential outcomes.
The length of time it takes to complete a defamation case in the UK can vary widely based on several factors. These factors include the complexity of the case, the number of parties involved, the willingness of the parties to settle, the court's schedule, and any potential appeals. However, broadly speaking, a defamation case might progress through the following stages:
- Pre-action stage: This involves a letter before action, any necessary investigations, and possibly pre-action negotiations. This could take a few weeks to several months.
- Pleadings stage: This involves the preparation and exchange of formal court documents (Claim Form, Particulars of Claim, Defence, and possibly a Reply). This stage usually takes a few months.
- Disclosure and evidence stage: This involves the parties disclosing relevant documents to each other and gathering evidence, including witness statements. Depending on the volume of documents and the number of witnesses, this stage could take several months.
- Trial: The trial itself may last anywhere from a day to a few weeks, depending on the complexity of the case.
- judgement and possible appeal: The judge may deliver their judgement immediately, or they may reserve judgement to deliver at a later date. If there is an appeal, the process can extend for several more months, and possibly longer.
In total, from the start of proceedings to judgement (excluding any appeal), a defamation case in the UK could take anywhere from about a year to several years. It is important to note that these are general time frames and each case is unique. Legal advice should be sought for an estimation tailored to a specific case. It's also worth mentioning that you typically have one year from the date of publication of the defamatory statement to bring a defamation claim, according to the Defamation Act 2013. However, courts have the discretion to hear cases brought outside this period if they consider it just and equitable to do so.
In the UK, slander and defamation more broadly are typically civil matters rather than criminal ones. This means that the police do not usually get involved in cases of slander. Instead, the person who believes they have been defamed would typically seek legal advice and possibly bring a claim in the civil courts. However, there could be circumstances where a defamatory statement could also involve criminal behaviour.
For instance, if the statement is part of a campaign of harassment, or incites violence or hatred based on race, religion, or other protected characteristics, then it might be a criminal offence and you could report it to the police. Also, under the Communications Act 2003, it's an offence to send a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character over a public electronic communications network (which includes social media).
So, if the slanderous statement fits these criteria, it could potentially be a matter for the police. Nevertheless, in most cases, slander and defamation are dealt with through the civil courts. If you believe you've been defamed, it's usually recommended that you seek legal advice to understand your rights and the best course of action.
- Dead people: One of the fundamental principles in defamation law is that a claim must be brought by a living person. The dead cannot be defamed, and their estate or family members cannot sue for defamation on their behalf.
- Government bodies: Government bodies, including local authorities and governmental departments, are not permitted to sue for defamation in the UK. This is based on the principle established in the 1993 case of Derbyshire County Council v. Times Newspapers Ltd, which found that it was contrary to the public interest for governmental bodies to sue for defamation.
- Trade associations: Trade associations are typically not permitted to sue for defamation on behalf of their members, unless they can demonstrate that the defamatory statement caused them, as an organisation, serious financial loss.
- Companies: Companies can bring a defamation claim, but under the Defamation Act 2013, a company must show that the defamatory statement has caused, or is likely to cause, serious financial loss.
In the UK, in a slander or defamation case, the burden of proof primarily falls on the defendant (the person accused of defamation). This means the defendant must demonstrate that their statement falls under one of the defences to defamation, such as truth, honest opinion, absolute or qualified privilege, or that the statement was in the public interest.
However, this does not mean that the claimant (the person who alleges they have been defamed) has nothing to prove. The claimant has the initial burden of establishing that: The statement was defamatory. The statement referred to them. The statement was published to a third party.
The statement has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation (if the claimant is a business, they must prove serious financial loss). Moreover, in some cases, the defendant may raise a factual defence where the claimant may need to provide evidence to the contrary. For example, if the defendant raises a defence of truth, the claimant may need to demonstrate that the statement was indeed false. Additionally, if a claimant brings a claim for malicious falsehood - where they must prove that a false statement was made maliciously that caused them damage - the burden of proof is on the claimant. Often, legal action for defamation against online reviewers will also involve a claim for malicious falsehood.
Defamation in the UK is defined by making a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual or a corporation. The false statement must be made to a third party, meaning someone other than the person defamed must have seen, heard, or read it. There are two types of defamation:
This refers to a defamatory statement that has been published in written form, or in a form that has some degree of permanence, such as a tweet, a Facebook post, a newspaper article, or a TV broadcast.
This refers to a defamatory statement that is spoken or in a non-permanent form. Under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. For a claim to be considered as defamation in the UK, the following elements typically need to be proven:
- The statement was defamatory.
- The statement referred to the claimant.
- The statement was published to a third party.
- The statement has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.
- If the claimant is a corporate body, they must also show that the statement has caused or is likely to cause them serious financial loss. If these elements are satisfied, then the statement could be considered as defamation. However, there are also several defences available, including truth, honest opinion, absolute or qualified privilege, public interest, and others.
Winning a defamation case can be challenging due to several factors:
- Burden of proof: In defamation cases, the claimant (the person who claims they were defamed) must establish several elements to win their case. They must prove that the statement was defamatory, that it referred to them, that it was published to a third party, and that it has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation. For businesses, they must also show serious financial loss. Each of these elements can be complex and challenging to prove, making it hard to win the case.
- Substantial truth: Under UK law, truth is a complete defence to a defamation claim. What's more, the statement only needs to be substantially true, not wholly true. If the defendant (the person accused of defamation) can prove that the 'sting' or main substance of their statement is true, they may win the case, even if some minor details are inaccurate or false. This aspect can make defamation cases especially difficult for claimants.
- Honest opinion: Another possible defence is honest opinion. If the defendant can show that their statement was a genuine expression of their opinion, based on facts that existed at the time and were either referred to in the statement or widely known, they might be able to use this defence. This can make winning a defamation claim more difficult, as it requires the claimant to demonstrate that the defendant did not honestly hold the opinion they expressed.
- Public interest and privilege: Statements that are in the public interest or made in certain privileged situations, such as in Parliament or in court, may also be protected. These defences can make it harder for claimants to win defamation cases.
- Belief in the truth: If a defendant genuinely believed that the statement they made was true at the time of publication, this can influence the case. Even if the statement is later found to be false, the defendant's belief in its veracity can be a relevant factor.
- Costs and stress of litigation: Litigation can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. The costs involved in bringing a defamation case, especially if it proceeds to trial, can be substantial. Even if a claimant has a strong case, the cost and stress of litigation can deter them from pursuing their claim to conclusion.
- Potential for Streisand Effect: The "Streisand Effect" refers to the phenomenon where attempting to suppress information can inadvertently lead to greater publicity for that information. In the context of a defamation case, this means that suing for defamation can sometimes draw more attention to the defamatory statements, causing further reputational harm. Given these challenges, it's generally advisable for anyone considering a defamation claim to seek professional legal advice.
Yes. But only in exceptional cases. The so called small claim court is effectively part of the county court. Currently defamation claims need to be issued in the High Court, unless the parties agree to give the county court jurisdiction in their dispute under section 18 of the County Courts Act 1984. Section 15 of the same Act provides that the county court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine any defamation action.
A claim can only be transferred to the county court by the High Court under section 40 of the 1984 Act. A defamation claim A claim can then find its way to the county court only if it is transferred there, by the High Court, under section 40 of the 1984 Act. The criteria for transfer of defamation claims from the High Court to the county court are set out under Civil Procedure Rule 30.3, which is a non-exclusive but compulsory list of matters to which the court must have regard.
The transferring court must have regard to the financial value of the claim and the availability of a judge specialising in the type of claim in question. The court must also consider the practical and logistical facilities of competing venues and the importance of the outcome of the claim to the public in general
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The case of Selvaratnam Suresh and the defence of Absolute Privilege
The case of Selvaratnam Suresh has demonstrated that the defence of absolute privilege might not apply to every claim of defamation against the police.
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Why bring a defamation case against the police
Defamation can cause significant harm to one's reputation, and when it comes to law enforcement, the ramifications can be even more severe. If you were defamed by the police, you should consider taking legal action against the police force that defamed you.
In this post, we will explore how claims of defamation against the police often involve accusations of breach of privacy and misuse of private information. The privacy of individuals is foundational to our legal system, where individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, if someone's name is mentioned as a suspect during an investigation and is subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing, they may have grounds to pursue a defamation claim against the police.
We live in an age where everyone has a digital footprint, where a single defamatory statement can spread like wildfire and damage someone's reputation overnight. In situations where law enforcement officers have leaked sensitive information about a case or provided inaccurate information about a suspect, it can be challenging to restore one's reputation. This is why it is essential to understand the legal framework surrounding claims of defamation against the police and how one can go about seeking legal remedies.
Can you bring a defamation claim against the police together with a claim for breach of privacy and misuse of private information
Yes. A claim of defamation against the police often involves claims of breach of privacy and misuse of private information. This is because police investigations are generally considered private matters, and individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, if an individual is named as a suspect, either formally or informally, and the investigation ultimately results in no further action being taken against them, they may have grounds to pursue a defamation claim against the police.
It is not uncommon for the police to disclose individuals' personal information to the media or other third parties during an investigation, which can lead to significant harm to reputation and privacy. As such, the police have a duty to act with care and sensitivity when handling and disclosing private information.
A claim of defamation against the police often involves claims of breach of privacy and misuse of private information. This is because police investigations are generally considered private matters, and individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is important to note that individuals' privacy and reputational rights must be protected during investigations, particularly when they have not been charged or convicted of any offence.
However, in the event that an individual is named as a suspect, whether formally or informally, and the investigation concludes without any subsequent actions taken against them, they could potentially have a basis to pursue a defamation case against the police. This underscores the importance of maintaining the privacy of accused persons until there is strong evidence of their guilt. Furthermore, any information released by the police should be properly verified and accurate, to avoid any potential harm or embarrassment to individuals who may be innocent.
In defamation cases against the police does it matter whether the suspect is charged with a criminal offence
If a person is accused, formally or informally, as a suspect but the investigation concludes without any further action against them, they might have the right to file a defamation lawsuit against the police. A claim of defamation against the police often involves claims of breach of privacy and misuse of private information. This is because police investigations are generally considered private matters, and individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The police have a duty to ensure that any information they disclose about an individual is accurate and truthful. If they make statements that are untrue or suggest criminal wrongdoing that is not supported by evidence, this may amount to defamation. In such cases, the individual may be able to claim damages for any harm caused to their reputation or emotional distress. However, pursuing a defamation claim can be complex and challenging, and individuals should seek legal advice before deciding to take action against the police.
Pursuing a defamation claim against the police can be a complex and challenging process, requiring the expertise of a skilled legal professional. Having your reputation tarnished by false accusations made by the police can be a harrowing experience. In order to seek justice and compensation for this injustice, it is essential to have a solicitor who is experienced in pursuing defamation claims against the police. They can help you build a strong case and ensure your rights are protected as you seek to clear your name and seek justice. An experienced solicitor can provide invaluable advice on the process and will also be able to ensure you receive the maximum compensation and justice that is available.
They can provide guidance on what evidence and documents are required, as well as facilitate you with representation in court if necessary. A good solicitor will also be able to provide advice and support throughout the process, from beginning to end. Pursuing such a claim can be a complex and challenging process, requiring the expertise of a skilled legal professional who understands the intricacies of defamation law and the procedural requirements of bringing a claim against a government entity like the police. Any individual who believes that they have been subject to defamatory statements made by the police should seek legal advice at their earliest opportunity to assess their options and pursue their rights.
In conclusion, defamation cases against the police can be a complex matter to navigate. When an individual's reputation is unfairly tarnished by being named as a suspect in a police investigation that ultimately ends in no charges, they may have a strong case for defamation. If you or someone you know has experienced this situation, it's important to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney who can advise on your specific situation and determine the appropriate course of action to take. With the right legal representation, you can protect your reputation and ensure that justice is served.
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Explanation of Chase Levels
Chase Levels are a useful tool for determining the degree of defamatory meaning or imputation in a statement, but they should not be considered the be-all and end-all when it comes to this analysis.
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What is meaning in defamation cases?
What matters most under English law of defamation, is the meaning attributed to a word, a sentence, or an article, by a reasonable reader, rather than the dictionary meaning of any word or phrase. It follows that under English law, defamation could be created by innuendo and a post could be defamatory even if it does not include a specific defamatory word or phrase.
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Case study of defamatory, out of context news articles
When a newspaper article is extracted from its original context, it has the potential to be manipulated to convey a defamatory message. This manipulation can occur either intentionally or unintentionally and may result in adverse consequences for the individuals involved. In such instances, it becomes crucial to contemplate the ramifications of distorting a statement's context, as it can be employed to unjustly depict someone or an event in a negative manner. Furthermore, it is essential to uphold the principle that individuals possess the right to have their words and actions accurately represented. If an individual believes that a newspaper article has been taken out of context, resulting in a defamatory interpretation, they may have legal options available to challenge the inaccuracies in the news report.
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Defamation by the Police
An email sent by the Police to a suspect’s employer was found to be defamatory because it implied that the suspect was guilty of a criminal offence.
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How can innocent people protect themselves from false accusations on the internet
False accusations on the internet have become a common occurrence, with the ease of access to social media and other platforms making it easier for anyone to share information without double-checking its validity.
Unfortunately, this has caused a great amount of harm to innocent people, who have been wrongfully accused of wrongdoing and have no means of defending themselves.
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What to do when a user posts defamatory content about you on social media
It's no secret that social media can be a breeding ground for defamatory content. Whether it's an ex-partner airing your dirty laundry, or a disgruntled employee badmouthing your company, this type of content can have a major impact on your reputation.
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The first case where damages were awarded in both defamation and breach of data
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How to remove a defamatory Google review
One of the most frustrating aspects of Google reviews for business owners is that people can post defamation anonymously, without having to property identify themselves. This makes it difficult to prove to Google that the review you are complaining about is fake.
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What to do if you have been defamed by the police
You might be able to sue the police for defamation if a police officer who is investigating a case against you, had made public her view that the allegations are true.
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Defamation by investor case where a shareholder was held liable for defaming a company
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The case of removal of search results from Google worldwide
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Defamation solicitors with focus on internet and social media law
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What to do if someone is slandering your business on the internet
If you have recently suffered defamation by competitors or if someone is slandering your business, you might be able to do something about it but you will need to act fast.
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