See our latest news articles
An inadvertent Tweet by the former apprentice hopeful and now Daily Mail columnist has set her back more than £100,000. The case has ramifications for anyone who publishes content – on their own website or on social media.
It’s easily done – rapid fire thumbs and within mere seconds up to 140 characters announce your views to the world. The problem is, that as a publisher of any content, you are subject to the same defamation laws as the editor of The Guardian or the 10 o’clock news. The real danger is if you don’t understand what those law are – and all too many social media commentators and account handlers don’t.
Katie Hopkins fell foul on a number of accounts. Firstly, she got her Twitter profiles mixed up and wrongly – and publicly – accused food writer and blogger Jack Monroe of vandalising war memorials, following a Tweet by fellow anti-austerity commentator Laurie Penny that she didn’t ‘have a problem’ with graffiti that was scrawled on a memorial during a demonstration.
Ms Hopkins’ second mistake was in response to Ms Monroe’s furious response, in which she asked for an apology and £5,000 for a migrants’ charity on threat of libel action. Although Hopkins deleted the offending Tweet, rather than apologise, she posted another comment asking what the difference was between ‘irritant Penny and social anthrax Monroe’.
Crucially, Monroe’s lawyers were able to argue in court that the second Tweet carried an innuendo that she approved of, or condoned, the vandalism. The judge agreed that Hopkins’ comments were defamatory and had damaged Monroe’s reputation.
Monroe was awarded £24,000 in damages, while Hopkins will also have to pay some of her costs; she has been ordered to make an interim payment of £107,000. Ironically, in the Twitter exchange Monroe commented: “Dear @KTHopkins, public apology + £5K to migrant rescue and I won’t sue. It’ll be cheaper for you and v satisfying for me.”
If only Katie Hopkins had listened, she could have saved herself a lot of money and time – and would not have suffered such loss of reputation
The message is that if you post on social media – or publish content on your website – you need to understand the laws of defamation. And they can be very subtle; it was also inference that led to the wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sally Bercow, agreeing to pay undisclosed damages to Lord McAlpine following her ‘irresponsible use of Twitter’.
We’re happy to run social media accounts for our clients; as experienced journalists, it’s part of our training to understand the relevant laws concerning slander and libel, and we also have full professional indemnity insurance, just in case we ever get it wrong. But we’ve always maintained that it’s a dangerous jungle if you don’t really know what you’re doing.