Individuals who post potentially defamatory allegations on Twitter or other networking websites may find they, or their employers, are liable to pay compensation, following a High Court ruling.
The chairman of the Indian Premier League cricket franchise, Mr Modi, made an allegation of match-fixing against former New Zealand cricket captain Chris Cairns on networking website Twitter.
Cairns said the allegation was totally untrue, damaged his 20-year good reputation and had affected his private life. He brought a defamation claim against Mr Modi – the first such case to be heard in England. Mr Modi failed to produce evidence to support his allegation and the High Court awarded Mr Cairns compensation of £90,000. It also ordered Mr Modi to pay Mr Cairns’ legal costs of £400,000.
The court was originally minded to award Mr Cairns £75,000 but increased the award to £90,000 because of the ‘particularly offensive’ approach of Mr Modi’s legal representatives, who frequently accused Mr Cairns of lying.
Had Mr Modi made the allegation as an employee, his employer could also have been liable for the defamatory Tweet unless it was able to show that he had made the post while on a ‘frolic of his own’, rather than in the course of his job. An internet use policy can help protect employers by making it clear which online activity by employees is prohibited – including posting potentially defamatory Tweets.
Businesses should ensure that their internet use policies prohibit employees from publishing potentially defamatory statements online, and that there is training and monitoring to ensure compliance.
Jonathan Waters is the founder of Helix Law. Before qualifying as a Solicitor he worked in industry and in investment banking for over a decade. He was also the Partner in charge of Commercial Litigation, Employment Law and Property Litigation at Stephen Rimmer LLP. Jonathan has wide experience of helping and advising businesses to avoid or to deal with commercial disputes and in particular construction disputes.
This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice.