Social Media Bosses Under Pressure

Judith Thompson

On 14 March 2017 representatives from Google Facebook and Twitter were grilled by the Home Affairs Select Committee about whether they do enough to protect the users of their sites from online hate. The representatives of these companies have a “terrible reputation” for dealing with problems of online hate, according to the MPs who were questioning them.

Particular criticism was levelled at YouTube, which makes money from advertising revenue from adverts appearing along side content. Where the content is posted by extremists, advertising still appears. Labour MP Chuka Umunna said that “not many business activities…are making money out of hate”.

Twitter also came under fire from Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  Nick Pickles, representing Twitter, agreed that the company did not communicate with users enough when issues were reported.

Samuels Solicitors is dealing with an increasing number of claims for libel, malicious falsehood and fraudulent misstatement across all social media platforms.

Judith Thompson, partner in Samuels Solicitors and specialist in defamation and online reputation management says: “under the Defamation Act the individual posting defamatory material on social media will be held responsible for their comments. However, if the operator of the website is notified that defamatory material is being published and they fail to do anything about it, the website operator themselves could be on the hook. Samuels Solicitors have helped countless clients, usually on a no win no fee basis, to recover damages as a result of defamation which has been posted online, usually on social media sites. It is possible that high profile cases such as the recent High Court decision where Katie Hopkins was ordered to pay damages to Jack Monroe as a result of two tweets, will make the users of social media appreciate that they can be sued for defamation posted online. However, until the social media companies themselves put better measures in place to identify and tackle online hate, the problem is likely to continue”

The news this week that the German government has drafted legislation which means that social media companies could be fined if libellous or threatening posts are not removed quickly, raises the question of whether the UK government should be considering similar steps. 

Samuels Solicitors have a niche specialism dealing with all types of online defamation, including libel on Facebook, Twitter and review sites, as well as undertaking applications to Google for the Right to be Forgotten, when material which is irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate appears in the search results against a user’s name.

Contact us today to discuss your case, if you have been affected by something posted about you online.