Tweeting your way to Court!
Sally Bercow, the speakers wife, has been found guilty of Libel at the High Court following an ill considered tweet involving Lord Mc Alpine of West Green.
This follows the BBC and ITV having to pay out over £310,000 in compensation for comments made in programs such as Newsnight. Mrs Bercow has been forced to agree to a settlement after the High Courts finding.
The tweet referred to media allegation that “a leading Conservative” from Wales in the 1970s and 1980s had been involved in child abuse. Mrs Bercow went a step further tweeting:
“Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*”
His Honour Mr Justice Tugendhat commented that in his judgement the reasonable reader would have understood the words “innocent face” as being insincere and ironical. He summarised the case by stating that the tweet took the media allegations a step further by adding a name to the person accused of the crime.
Needless to say since the downfall of Super Injunctions (in no small way due to Twitter) Judges appear unsympathetic to any social media that infringes an individual’s rights.
Mrs Bercows commented:
“To say I’m surprised and disappointed by this is an understatement.
“Today’s ruling should be seen as a warning to all social media users. Things can be held to be seriously defamatory, even when you do not intend them to be defamatory and do not make any express accusation. On this, I have learned my own lesson the hard way.” She described the legal wrangle with McAlpine as a “nightmare” and added: “I am sure he has found it as stressful as I have.”
Therefore businesses, employees and individuals need to be aware of the risks when commenting or making use of social media. Whilst it is great exposure you don’t want to be “surprised” if you get more attention than you bargained for.