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UK Libel Cases Fall by 30%, But Social Media Defamation On The Rise

The number of defamation cases in the UK fell by nearly a third over the past year.

63 cases were taken to court between June 30th 2014 and June 30th 2015, compared to 86 the previous year.

This has been then lowest recorded number of cases since 2008, according to statistics released by Thompson Reuters which were published by The Sunday Times this month.

However, a new trend has been spotted with an increase of defamation cases linked to social media, which has jumped from 8 cases in 2013/14 to 11 in 2014/15, a boost of 38%.

Fast Reputation Damage Caused By Social Media

 

With social media becoming a major form of communication, and a platform to anonymously spread rumours, these numbers are expected to increase over the next few years. The viral and unregulated nature of social media means that the harm caused by defamatory statements can spread quickly and make a huge impact.

The overall decline of defamation cases has been viewed as a reaction to the new Defamation Act which came into force in January 2014, which requires claimants to show evidence of actual ‘serious harm’ to their or their companies’ reputation as a result of defamation.

Previously, claimants only had to show evidence of a false and defamatory statement, with no consideration of the damage caused by these statements.

For companies, defamation lawsuits must also be supported by evidence of serious financial loss. The Act came in to stop the trend of ‘libel tourism’, protecting those who are accused of making false defamatory statements.