Yet another European media scandal is making defamation headlines. This time, the scandal involves television program Newsnight, Tory politician Lord McAlpine and accusations of pedophilia. The story “broke” on Twitter – and now parliamentarians are calling for stronger online libel laws. Specifically, authorities want to make clear that Twitter defamation is the same as libel in a newspaper.
The Scandal: Politicians, Pedophilia and Resignations
In one of the biggest media blunders of the decade, A recent Newsnight piece mistakenly implicated Lord McAlpine of molesting a teenage orphan, Steven Messham, nearly 20 years ago. When the story broke, McAlpine’s reputation immediately plummeted. People were shocked! Outraged!
After a little investigating, the truth was revealed: Messham was mistaken. It wasn’t McAlpine who’d abused him years earlier. Presumably embarrassed by the incident, George Entwistle, the Director General of the BBC, resigned.
Include Social Media In Defamation Reform Efforts!
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was outspoken about the Twitter defamation implications of the McAlpine scandal. In a statement, the parliamentarian urged lawmakers to punish Facebook and Twitter defamation as harshly as newspaper libel.
“At the moment you have got this situation where newspapers are rightly constrained by libel and defamation laws,” began Grayling, “but people are linking to the stories through the Internet and spreading vile and heinous lies about people, who have no right of redress.” He continued, “We are going to have to bring Facebook and Twitter under the same laws as libels committed by newspapers or television channels.”
In his address, Grayling also urged Lord Justice Leveson to touch on the issue of Facebook and Twitter defamation in his scheduled December report on libel reform.
Plaintiff Friendly Defamation Laws In The UK
The United Kingdom has always been known as “the” place to file a libel lawsuit. Their defamation statutes, like many commonwealth countries, are amongst the most plaintiff-friendly in the world. Why is that? Well, to put it bluntly, reputation is often tantamount to free speech in the Queen’s lands.
Unlike defamation laws in the United States, plaintiff’s, for the most part, don’t have to prove actual malice. Meaning, they don’t have to provide evidence that demonstrates the plaintiff’s true impetuous was to harm the defendant. Moreover, the way in which current UK defamation laws are written makes it very easy for defendants to claim that they were in some way harmed by the material in question.
To learn more about slander and libel laws from around the world, visit the International Defamation Law Database. If you need a defamation lawyer who is well-versed in international and Twitter defamation law, contact Kelly/Warner Law today.