That may seem a rather obvious and common sense statement, but it should always be borne in mind when posting a comment on Twitter in light of the first known decision of its kind in the UK. Cricketer and former New Zealand captain, Chris Cairns, won a libel claim in March 2012 against former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Lalit Modi for defamatory tweets.
In January 2010, Mr Modi tweeted that Mr Cairns had been removed from the IPL auction list (a list of players eligible to play in the league) ‘due to his past record of match fixing’. The tweet was picked up by a cricket website, and Mr Modi repeated his claims to the site.
The judge found that Mr Modi ‘singularly failed to provide any reliable evidence that Mr Cairns was involved in match fixing’.
The allegation was so damaging to Mr Cairns that the judge felt there was no question that it was defamatory. Even though few people in the UK would have seen Mr Modi’s statements, the judge noted that in the online world ‘the poison tends to spread far more rapidly’.
The total damages awarded to Mr Cairns came to £90,000 – that amounts to £3,750 per word! In addition it is understood the costs to be met by Mr Modi, in addition to the damages, are in the region of £1m.
The judgment establishes an important precedent when it comes to libel through social media. It is clear that defamatory statements made on Twitter and other social media sites may be treated as seriously, if not more so, than those published in more traditional ways – not least because of their potential reach to millions.
It is easy to post a comment on Twitter thinking it will largely go unnoticed and yet it takes very little for it to end up being brought to the attention of millions.
So – be careful what you tweet!
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