Removing defamatory posts on social media

In today’s world, social media and blogs are widely used to communicate facts, opinions and opinions masquerading as facts. However, when people post content that is defamatory, it can be hard to get it removed. This post explains how.

Social media platforms are now one of the most popular forms of communication, providing a medium to distribute and access information at the click of a button. However, this continued growth has given rise to a number of problems, including the use of social media to blackmail and defame a business or an individual.

Social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and Twitter are sometimes used unlawfully by those whose aim is to defame others. These might be competitors, dissatisfied customers or other people with an axe to grind. By way of example, Google Blogger, one of the most widely used blogging tools in the world, has been used to create blogs unlawfully describing companies and individuals as scammers, fraudsters and thieves. Similarly, Twitter can also be used as a tool to defame individuals through the creation of fake accounts and the posting of libellous material.

In order to remove unlawful posts on social media platforms, contact should firstly be made with the platform to request the offending material be taken down. Most platforms have specific forms for this purpose which require you to explain the nature of the content, why it is defamatory and why the platform should remove it. Whilst the platform may eventually agree to remove the content, such removal is often not swift enough with the result that it is not sufficient to mitigate the damage already caused to a business or an individual’s reputation. To make matters worse, in many cases, the platforms may elect to take no action to remove the content, not least because the platforms often make arbitrary decisions about what to remove, having received thousands of requests each day.

If the platform will not agree to remove content or the victim wishes to take the matter further, the next step is to apply to the High Court for a disclosure order under the rationale established in the case of Norwich Pharmacal Co. & Others v Customs and Excise Commissioners [1974] AC 133. This order, if granted by the Court, forces the platform to disclose the details of the source of the defamatory material, whether the IP address or the name of the person using the account with the social media platform. Securing this information provides a more direct route for enforcing removal of offending posts and, if necessary, a defendant to legal proceedings.

Whilst the costs involved in employing this tool may at first appear prohibitive, it has been used effectively in many instances, achieving favourable results for victims of defamation online. Furthermore it can be the quickest way to resolve issues of defamation preventing further damage to a business’ or individual’s reputation.

If you have issues with defamatory postings on social media, please contact Buckworths.