Claims in respect of false online statements

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    Jonathan Lea

    A question was asked about what someone can do in respect of false statements made against them online and removing such content, other than pursuing a potentially expensive action for online defamation (libel)


    Jonathan Lea

    It is often overlooked by lawyers, or not known about, but in addition to a claim for libel a company or individual can pursue an action for malicious falsehood which is easier to claim and involves a lower test than defamation. One of the self-employed solicitors we work with has successfully used malicious falsehood to remove online content several times, including TripAdvisor reviews.

    A claim for malicious falsehood may be brought against a defendant who maliciously publishes a false statement which identifies the claimant, his business, property or other economic interests, and can be shown to have caused the claimant financial loss or to fall within one of the exceptions in section 3(1) of the Defamation Act 1952.

    Although both malicious falsehood and defamation claims deal with publication of false statements the main difference between them is that a claimant in a malicious falsehood claim is not required to prove damage to reputation. Another advantage is that the single meaning rule does not apply to malicious falsehood claims, so there may be tactical reasons for bringing a claim in malicious falsehood rather than defamation, although damages tend to be lower.

    A typical situation in which a claim for malicious falsehood arises is where one competitor has made an untrue statement about another’s goods or services, which is calculated to cause it financial loss.

    For further information this is a good summary:–sourcing/media-law/malicious-falsehood/

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