Defamation removal letter
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Slander and libel warning letter to the website operator
In the UK, the law of defamation is divided into libel and slander. Whilst slander is a verbal defamatory statement, libel is a recorded form of defamation. In the context of internet law, a defamatory video on YouTube is considered as libel rather than slander because a video is a published record of the defamatory statement.
You can write a cease and desist letter to a website operator in relation to libel defamation on their website, including video defamation, which is considered to be libellous rather than slander.
There are usually three components to a cease and desist letter for defamation, to a website operator to achieve your aims. The first, is to attribute liability to the website operator, who, by law, only becomes liable to defamatory statements on their website at the point of formal notification.
The second, is to request the removal of the defamatory statements from their website and the third, is to request that they provide you with the personal details of the internet user who posted the defamatory statements on their website.
Upon consideration as to the components of a strong cease and desist letter for defamation and therefore the contents of the letter, would depend on each letter and the context of the defamatory circumstances. However, a cease and desist letter for defamation, sent to a website operator should include the following information, which could be used as a template for your letter.
At the beginning of the cease and desist letter, provide an introduction of the parties, including the claimant, the legal representatives, if any, and the respondent.
Reason for writing to the website operator. In this section, you need to explain why you are writing the letter to the website operator and what liability you attribute to them for the posts on their website. What is your legal backing for your request and under what law you are approaching them.
Background to the matter. Give any relevant background and assert your good reputation. Explain when and under what circumstances you have become aware of the defamatory statements on their website.
Set out precisely what you want the website operator to do. Whether it is to remove the defamatory posts, provide you with user information, voluntarily consent to an application for disclosure, publish an apology or pay you damages. Later on in your letter, you will repeat these requests in more detail and with a clear deadline for the website operator to reply
Detail each defamatory statement that you want the website operator to remove from the internet and provide direct links to each of the defamatory statements on the website.
For each defamatory statement, explain what defamatory meaning you attribute and what the true position is. Repeat this for every defamatory statement and pay particular attention to the defamatory meanings.
You can refer to each word, each sentence or to a whole paragraph as sometimes the defamatory meaning only becomes clear in the context of the entire publication. A particular word might be seen as harmless by itself, but when it is read in the context of an entire paragraph, or even entire articles, and in some cases, an entire website, the same word could attract a significant defamatory meaning.
Summarise your claim from the website operator and set out in more detail what you are expecting the website operator to do and by when. Tell them what you are going to do if they fail to comply with your requests once the deadline has lapsed. Give the website operator 14 days to respond. If your cease and desist letter to the website operator includes references to The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013, state this very clearly and follow the requirements under section 2 of the Regulations. Under The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013, the website operator, in order to avoid liability for defamation, needs to respond to your cease and desist letter within 48 hours.
A cease and desist letter should contain the same information as a letter of claim. In defamation cases, the Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation Claims requires you to include certain information with your letter to the offending party. This is regardless of whether you are sending your defamation cease and desist letter to a website operator or to the individual responsible for posting the defamatory posts.
Where you send a cease and desist submission to a website operator, and where you don’t know who the poster of the defamation is, add relevant information in accordance with section 2 The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013.Generally speaking, a cease and desist letter in defamation cases should provide the offender sufficient details about your complaint and it should include a suggestion, or a demand for ways to resolve the matter.
Whilst there is a 12 months limitation period in defamation cases, victims of defamation are expected to act as soon as possible and without undue delay. Therefore, you should send your cease and desist letter to the website operator as soon as it is reasonably practical for you to do so. To be covered by the 12 months limitation period, you must file a claim within this time frame. Sending a cease and desist letter is not considered as bringing legal action within the meaning of the limitation period.
Make sure that your cease and desist letter states clearly who you are and that there are sufficient details about the publication that you are complaining about, including references to any online posts. Often, a screenshot might not be sufficient because a screenshot does not to show the precise location of the defamatory posts on the internet.
A screenshot only gives an image of the offending posts without providing the website operator with the ability to locate the posts. In most cases, you will need to copy the URL of the post or if it is a post that has been posted on social media or on an online discussion forum, right click the link to the post and copy the URL address specific to the post you are complaining about. Make sure to also state the date and time of the posts if this information is available.
Where it comes to detailing the words complained of, you might still want to provide screenshots, or a citation of the part of the sentence or paragraph that you believe is defamatory. Screenshots could turn your letter very lengthy and confusing so whilst it is best to provide citations of the defamatory words, you might also want to attach to your cease and desist letter a schedule with all the screenshots.