The case

Due to the celebrity status of Hopkins, the facts of the case have been widely reported in the news and the papers over the weekend. In a nutshell, the case surrounds two tweets sent by Hopkins to Monroe. Monroe has alleged that the tweets sent by Hopkins accused her of vandalising a war memorial or indeed suggested that she approves/condones such behaviour. It has been reported that Hopkins argued that Twitter was the social media equivalent of the Wild West and, as such, anything goes.

Following a contested trial, Mr Justice Warby, the recently appointed presiding judge of the new Media and Communication List in the High Court, ruled that the serious harm threshold had been satisfied and stated that “the tweets complained of have a tendency to cause harm to the claimant’s reputation in the eyes of third parties, of a kind that would be serious for her”. The serious harm threshold was introduced by the Defamation Act 2013 to act as a gateway against frivolous claims. However, this is one of the first cases to apply the new threshold to Twitter. Our previous e-briefing on the serious harm threshold addresses what constitutes “serious harm” and can be found here.

Our view

This case is further evidence of the emergence of a new arena for litigation and organisations of all shapes and sizes need to ensure that they are alive to the risks involved in using social media. In a matter of minutes, Hopkins sent two tweets that have ended up costing her £24,000 in damages and an interim costs order of over £100,000. It has been speculated that when combining the damages award, the amount Hopkins will have to pay in contribution to Monroe’s legal costs and her own legal costs, Hopkins could be facing a total bill of around £300,000. An expensive few minutes by anyone's standards!

We cannot forget that social media has become one of the key avenues of communication between organisations, their customers and the wider public and that there are clear benefits of using social media for this purpose. With an ever-shifting preference by customers to communicate via social media, an organisation that doesn't maximise their use of social media could be left behind.

However, as this case has highlighted, there are also risks involved with a communication medium that provides an instant platform for the whole world to see.

It is important that organisations continue to manage the risk, as they do across their entire business, attributable to their interaction with social media. Our previous e-briefing on managing risk with social media can be found here.

In light of this recent case, it would be advisable to review any social media policies and procedures your organisation has, including staff policies, to ensure that it is clear what messages are communicated, and who is authorised to communicate them via social media. This case highlights the potential consequences of a misguided or misaddressed tweet, and organisations should take note to ensure that they are protected against a similar fate.

For more information

Should you wish to speak with us about how your organisation currently manages their use of social media or wider reputational risk, please contact Cynyr Rhys. If you would like further information about the work that we do, please visit our website.

Is £400m enough?
Is £400m enough?

The government announced on 16 May that it will provide a fund of £400m to cover the costs of removal and replacement of cladding to high rise residential blocks which have failed tests.

The problems with co-owned properties and attorneys
The problems with co-owned properties and attorneys

Whilst some people are under the impression that preparing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is simply a case of completing a form and ticking a few boxes, it is about far more than this.

What's mine is (not) yours!
What's mine is (not) yours!

A big fear for some people facing divorce and the inevitable carving up of the matrimonial assets. They seek assurances that such assets will be “ring-fenced” and retained for them.

How to avoid the PET trap
How to avoid the PET trap

When an individual is thinking about making a gift to another individual, consideration needs to be given to the Potentially Exempt Transfer (PET) trap.

Fictitious divorces
Fictitious divorces

Arising from the recent Family Division announcement, people who think they are legally divorced may in fact still be married.