24th May 2018
I’ve Been Libelled On Twitter – What Should I Do?
Reading untrue or hurtful comments online about yourself (or your business) is embarrassing and upsetting. It can be mortifying to think of the comments being circulated and read widely. It’s tempting to rush into action, fight fire with fire, and charge into an online battle with all guns blazing.
A better response is to stay calm and avoid any immediate direct response to the tweeter. Don’t retaliate or engage in a war of words. This could undermine any claim, or lead to you yourself being accused of defamation. Instead take these steps:
First, act quickly to preserve relevant evidence. Print out all relevant webpages (with date stamps), to show all relevant tweets and details of the tweeters, including the number of followers they have. Repeat this for any retweets and each individual retweeter. Were the allegations repeated on other platforms? Capture that information as well.
Second, record the occasions when the offensive tweet is brought to your attention. This is to have a record of damage to your reputation caused by the tweet. For instance, make a note of when someone asks you about it, or you see a reference to it in the paper, or elsewhere online. You will then be able to demonstrate (to the court, if necessary) that the offending tweet has been read.
Third, report it to Twitter. The company’s abuse policy allows users to report abusive content and ask for it to be removed.
Fourth, demand a retraction and apology from the tweeter, and possibly compensation. Ideally, this will be done offline, i.e. by a letter to their home address, if you can find it. The reason for this is that it brings home the ‘real world’ consequences of their actions to the tweeter. Whereas people feel anonymous and untouchable online, once they realise that what they’ve done will hit them in their pocket, they are likely to become contrite and more reasonable.
In serious cases, you should take legal advice quickly. If you need to issue court proceedings, you have only 12 months from the date of the tweet to do so. Acting quickly will also demonstrate the significance of the damage to your reputation.
For more information on protecting your online reputation, click here.