Katie Hopkins’ libel defeat highlights the dangers of Twitter

‘The price of not saying sorry has been very high.’ So declared Mark Lewis, who acted for food writer Jack Monroe in her Twitter libel claim against columnist Katie Hopkins.The judgment is a required read for lawyers, and not just those working in the media and communications sector.

As the Press Gazette noted, in a 2014 case involving the Mirror a judge ruled that a swift correction and prominent apology was enough to stop an inaccurate story causing serious harm to reputation.

Hopkins’ correction was delayed until after solicitors’ letters had been exchanged (and even then was limited), in one of the first cases to define the new ‘serious harm’ threshold in defamation law.

That bar has been set uncomfortably low for publishers and arguably places online media on the same step as print. As Lewis noted, there are no longer any Twitter ‘outlaws’.

Twitter has been declared the ‘saviour of libel work’. But lawyers need to take this ruling personally, too. Like journalists, they love an argument and this case is another reminder that Twitter is a dangerous place for professionals to let rip. Barristers received guidance to that effect last week; solicitors can read Law Society guidance on social media here.

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