Reputation Matters: Success for Claimant in the first Twitter libel trial

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Success for Claimant in the first Twitter libel trial

Cairns v Modi [2012] EWHC 756 (QB)

On 26 March 2012, the High Court handed down judgment in the first libel trial arising out of the social media phenomenon Twitter.

The Claimant, a former international cricketer, was awarded £90,000 in damages, which included an uplift of some 20% as a result of the Defendant’s aggressive plea of justification.  The defamatory tweet, which had accused the Claimant of match fixing, totalled a mere 107 characters.

This first Twitter libel judgment highlights the risks inherent in social media and the harm that can be done to an individual’s reputation in 140 characters (or less). In the age of technology “the poison” of libellous remarks spreads far more rapidly than might have previously been the case.

The case further demonstrates that, where there is a proper connection with this jurisdiction and a reasonable readership of the publication in question, the law of defamation provides suitable redress to claimants who have suffered as a result of defamatory statements made in social media, and on the internet more generally.  Care should be exercised when using social media – there can be little doubt that this will not be the last Twitter based claim before the courts of England & Wales.

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