Tech Bytes, a newsletter from Shadboltlaw.com, reports on the first Facebook defamation case.
In the case the complainant obtained a court order requiring Facebook to disclose:
– the registration details of the user who created a fake profile and group;
– the IP address of the computer that was used to create the fake profile and group; and
– details of Facebook activity undertaken from the computer using that IP address.
The court upheld the complainant’s case that a false profile and group had been set up on Facebook. He was awarded libel damages.
John Warchus, a partner at Shadbolt said of the case that it:
“highlightsthe increasing willingness of courts to order the disclosure of datawhich could be used to identify an individual or individuals postingdefamatory content on social networking sites. Such content has thepotential to cause serious reputational damage to a company orindividual if the content is published to a large number of people.”
Warchus says that:
“Businesses should also note that they must refrain fromknowingly (or tacitly) allowing their employees to post defamatorycomments about competitors (or third parties), as it is likely that aclaim could be made against them as well as the employee involved.
“In order to minimise risks, companies should have clear policies inplace setting out how employees should use social networking sites anda clear monitoring policy which allows the employer to access thecompany IT system to check that policies are being followed in practice.
“Finally, the decision shows that, as well as a claim in defamation,individuals can also bring a claim based on breach of privacy for whichdamages can be awarded.”