Twitter defamation and harassment
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How to remove defamation from Twitter
The damage to your reputation and well-being as a result of posts or threats via posts on social media, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, is often impossible to quantify. If you have suffered damage to your reputation as a result of being defamed on Twitter, it is likely that we can help you seek redress through defamation laws.
What to do if Twitter does not respond to your removal requests.
Twitter, like other large social media companies has no telephone customer service support that Twitter users can call to ensure that their removal request has been addressed. In most cases, where defamatory allegations are made on Twitter, such as false allegations of rape or other serious criminal activity, Google would not respond to your repeated requests to remove the defamatory tweet from Twitter. Twitter often views those type of posts as not sufficiently important to be addressed as a matter of urgency if they do not involve political issues that are supported by Twitter. Personal issues, such as defamation on Twitter, are considered as less important than national or global matters.
Often, defamatory tweets constitute both defamation and harassment. Despite the fact that Twitter does not consider reports of defamation as sufficient to initiate the removal of the defamatory tweet, the approach Twitter takes towards harassment is more encouraging. Often, victims of defamation on Twitter also feel harassed. In many cases, the nature of the defamatory posts put their lives at risk and in some cases, they feel so threatened by the defamatory tweets that they have to report the tweet to the police and receive personal security advice from the police.
In some cases, victims of defamation on Twitter have been subjected to threats on the street and in extreme cases to actual violence. It is imperative, therefore that if the defamation on Twitter is causing you harassment, that you frame your removal request to Twitter as harassment rather than as defamation. To have a better chance of having the defamatory tweet deleted, you should report the harassment both to the police, and obtain crime reference number from the police, and to Twitter by using Twitter reporting procedure for harassment .
If you have been defamed, harassed or blackmailed on Twitter, you might choose, without delay to serve on Twitter a formal legal request. Twitter compliance rates with legal request stands at approximately 31% only. You will have the highest likelihood of success in having defamatory tweets removed from Twitter if you submit a legal request through a solicitor and even a higher rate if the legal request contains a court order, rendering the tweet unlawful. To have a tweet removed by a legal request to Twitter, you will often need to go through 2 stages. The first is to request the identification of the Twitter user who posted the defamatory tweet, and the second is to obtain a judgment from the court that declares the content in the tweet defamatory.
In most cases after you have complied with the first step, requesting Twitter to disclose the identification of the user who posted the defamatory tweet, the defamatory tweet will be deleted by either the user or by Twitter. It is rare that clients need to go through to the second stage of obtaining a full judgement that renders the defamatory tweet unlawful. However, this step might be necessary in some instances. Cases where the tweeter is anonymous are common, so we have developed a quick route to obtaining disclosure orders against Twitter who has nearly always provided us with highly useful disclosure information about the Twitter user who posted defamation or who has harassed our client.
It takes between 48 hours to 6 weeks on average to have a defamatory tweet deleted form Twitter. The length of time would often depend on how fast you are acting, whether the Twitter user can be identified outright and whether a court order is needed to render the defamatory tweet unlawful. Bear in mind that there is a 12 months limitation period to bring a claim to court in relation to a defamatory tweet, which seems like a lot of time, but considering the potential of defamatory tweets to replicated fast, it is always advisable for victims of defamation on Twitter to avoid delays in starting the process of having the defamatory tweets deleted.
Defamation on Twitter can often occur as a deliberate act by the defendant who tweets their own original defamatory comments on Twitter or by third parties who might simply re-tweet the defamation. When defamation on Twitter is deliberate, it often also constitutes harassment, because in most cases the intention of the defendant is to cause the victim of the defamation, alarm and distress. Often, we are asked, how many tweets and how many followers are required to establish a case of defamation.
The answer is that there is not a magic number of tweets or Twitter followers that is required to prove defamation. Although, broadly speaking, the more followers the offending tweeter has, the higher the likelihood that the victim will suffer damage to his or her reputation. Remember, however, that there is no need for any followers to exist in order to cause the victim reputational damage on Twitter because a defamatory tweet could very easily be found by a potential employer, a recruitment agent or by clients who look you up on Twitter.
The number of followers might, therefore, be relevant. Sometimes, the Twitter followers are part of a small niche or a distinct group of people whose opinion of you, as the victim of Twitter defamation, is material to you. When it comes to harassment on Twitter, the number of followers or potential reader of the defamatory tweets might be low but with harassment, the two most important factors to bring a claim are your knowledge of the existence of the harassing tweets and the intention of the defendant to harass or defame.
If you have been defamed or harassed on Twitter, you should consider taking the following steps, all of which have been used by our clients who have found them very useful and extremely helpful to their case, regardless of whether they decided to take legal action to remove the tweets:
- Report the harassment and defamation to Twitter
- Report the harassment to the police
- Seek legal advice
- Preserve evidence
- Avoid responding to tweets
- Act with speed
It is important that you report the harassment and defamation to Twitter. Most people have very little hope that Twitter will take positive action to protect their personal safety or their reputation. Despite this, file a report with Twitter based on the information you have read here.
The police are unlikely to assist you in any meaningful way. However, it is important that you make a report to the police by the fact that you are being harassed on Twitter and if you feel fearful, the police need to know about this because in some cases the police have been able to approach the Twitter user and even serve on the user a formal harassment notice. In case you feel harassed, threatened of in fear of violence, report the tweets to the police and obtain a crime reference number.
If you face defamation or harassment on Twitter, considering seeking legal advice as soon as possible. Speak to a lawyer who is an expert in social media law. Your lawyer would have dealt with similar Twitter cases in the past and will be able to advise you on your correct legal position and on what you could, and should be doing next. Some of the advice that you might be given by your lawyer will be tactical. It is definitely worth having it.
Act quickly to preserve relevant evidence. At this stage do not necessarily block the harasser until you receive legal advice to do so. It is important to have the evidence of the harassment and defamation properly and accurately preserved. Simple screenshots of the Twitter or Instagram accounts might be insufficient. Everything needs to be date stamped, preferably saved as PDF. We suggest that you let your solicitor do this for you but make sure you act quickly.
There is software available to help you download an entire Twitter account as a PDF or as an excel document. Create your own evidence by capturing on paper any verbal references people have made to the offending tweets, by making notes of the impact the defamatory or harassing posts on Twitter have on your life and on the way other people are treating you.
If you are being defamed or harassed on Twitter, consider avoiding posting a response to the harassing or defamatory tweets. There are a number of reasons for this advice. First, you might think that you have a case for defamation but your case might actually be for harassment or for breach of privacy or even for criminal blackmail.
Victims of harassment are not expected to communicate or engage in any way with their harassers because this tends to induce more harassing activities by the harasser and can be viewed as a two side banter rather than a one way harassment. Second, you might need access to the evidence later on or an easy way to serve legal documents on twitter. Third, by responding to the harassing tweets or by blocking the tweeter, you are likely to lose the element of surprise. And fourth, by engaging with the tweeter you may undermine any claim you have or be blamed for encouraging the tweeter’s activities.
Act promptly to remove the defamatory tweets. The defamatory tweets are unlikely to disappear by themselves so to avoid a prolonged pain and suffering to yourself and to your family, and to prevent the fast spread of the defamation about you, act fast. Deal with the situation and have it removed from your life whilst you still can.