Removal of defamatory video from the internet
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Removal of a defamatory video from the internet
With the increasing activity of vigilante groups who seek to take the role of the police and combine it with the popular use of videos on the internet, individuals are finding themselves encountering a variety of online related reputational issues, for which they should be seeking legal advice as soon as possible.
Our client, John (not his real name), was a successful businessman living in London, who had been subjected to false claims of paedophilia by vigilante paedophile hunters. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in John feeling of isolated and stressed. This directly impacted John who started to develop an online pornography addiction, which he had never previously experienced. John had been using an online dating site when he was approached by a female profile claiming to be 22 years old. He arranged to meet the 22-year-old woman in the profile for a coffee in a nearby town. His stress and isolation had reached an all-time low, having been working from home for the past 9 months, so he wanted to meet somebody new, with the possibility of developing an intimate relationship.
When John arrived at the agreed-upon location, he was met by an angry mob of vigilante paedophile hunters who proceeded to film him without his consent and named and shamed him for a crime he had not committed. The individuals who were behind the video, publicly stated that they often used fake online profiles to identify and confront individuals who they considered to be sexual predators or paedophiles.
However, civil paedophile hunter groups in the UK have no legal authority to lure, investigate, question or confront any individual who they consider to have had committed a criminal offence. In the case of our client, they had lured him in through a fake adult profile to falsely label him as a paedophile, which in turn started to have detrimental implications on his private and public life. What John was facing, was the worst type of defamatory online video, one which contained false allegations and which were particularly damaging in nature.
What occurred next was deeply damaging and led John to seek legal advice after he was being hunted by the paedophile predator hunters.
The vigilante group of self-proclaimed paedophile hunters had filmed John in this unwarranted meeting and had published the video across the internet on several social media sites. The video had infringed upon John’s data protection as it had contained his personal details. John had never been convicted of a criminal offence before and yet now he was being submitted to a trial by the media for a crime he did not commit. Up until this point, John had always been considered as a person of good character, a gentlemen and excellent businessman.
Despite the support from his close friends and family, following the publication of the videos by the paedophile hunters vigilante group, John spiralled into depression, having been falsely labelled as a paedophile when he genuinely believed the women he was about to meet was 22 years old. When he contacted our law firm, our lawyers, who have dealt with similar cases many times in the past, immediately understood the issues at hand and were able to assist John and have the misleading and defamatory videos about him removed from the internet. It is important to seek legal advice about the removal of a defamatory video from the internet and never presume that such removal might never be possible.
Misleading videos on the internet, can be considered defamatory. If a video which presents facts is presenting those facts in a misleading way and out of the correct context, those internet videos can certainly be regarded as defamatory. As a result of the slanderous videos circulating across social media platforms and appearing on Google when John's name was searched, John nearly lost his business, a business which he had built over nearly 10 years.
The false allegations of paedophilia online also meant that John was unable to socialise which, in turn, threw him into further depression. Due to the serious nature of the allegations in the video and the publication of John’s personal data, he experienced threats from the public, causing him to fear for his safety.
The damaging consequences of the defamatory video eventually caused John to relocate for his own personal protection and at one point he was ready to take his own life. While surprised by the accusations, John lost the support of many of his lifelong friends and family members including his parents and sister. They refused to maintain contact with him as they were extremely embarrassed and ashamed of him, despite it being false.
Our lawyers have had plenty of experience successfully handling cases like John’s in which the circulation of false allegations on the internet has damaged reputations and left our clients fearful for their own personal safety.
Many individuals find themselves having their Personal Data breached by unauthorised disclosure under GDPR by the publication of videos online. This includes the common infringement of Article 5.1 (a, b, d) which states that Personal Data shall be processed fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to the data subject, and collected for legitimate purposes, shall be accurate and where necessary, kept up to date.
Our expert solicitors assisted John in having the damaging video removed from the internet, including from websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. John had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The publication of the video, was filmed without consent, containing John’s Personal Data and infringing of Article 5 of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The removal of the video was achieved by our solicitors communicating with each of the website operators that were being used to publish the video to immediately remove the video pursuant to the infringement under the GDPR. A legal letter requesting the removal of the video was written to and responded by the operators. In addition, our solicitors wrote directly to Google and requested that the defamatory video be de-listed from their search results, detailing the consequences they pursued for our client, who was not being investigated by the police, therefore carrying no interest for the public.
After we have facilitated the removal of the defamatory video from the internet, John was reassured that his name had been cleared in the public domain, despite the damage that had already been committed. By removing the defamatory content, it proved John’s innocence as there was no public interest for the matter to be online. John was extremely relieved and was appreciative of the fact that our solicitors acted in full confidentiality, without passing judgement on the matter, giving him their undivided attention and time to resolve his problem.
Incidents whereby individuals have been falsely accused of severe crimes such as paedophilia can have detrimental consequences on them. However, when the false accusations appear online, it can lead individuals to feeling like they have nowhere to turn as they are constantly reminded of the situation every time they access the internet.
This particular case was an extremely difficult time for our client John, however, we were able to overcome the challenges faced and having had prior experience on similar cases helped us to strategise a plan to assist him in having the content removed.