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Case law: Ex-spouse found liable under defamation laws for comments about former husband on social media

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  • Publish date: 01 April 2018
  • Archived on: 01 April 2019

Spouses and other parties in acrimonious disputes should avoid posting defamatory comments about the other side on social media such as Facebook, as this may amount to 'publishing' those comments for the purposes of defamation law.

April 2018

This update was published in Legal Alert - April 2018

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

Following a bitter divorce, the former wife sent a friend request on Facebook to her former husband's new partner, who accepted. The wife then posted on the new partner's Facebook 'wall', making a number of disparaging comments about her former husband. He sued the ex-wife for libel.

She argued that the fact her former husband's new partner could set the privacy settings to control who saw posts on her Facebook meant that she – the ex-wife – should not therefore be liable for who saw those posts on the partner's Facebook.

The Court of Appeal disagreed. It found that, by posting them to the partner's Facebook, she had published her defamatory statements to all of the partner's Facebook friends. The ex-wife's acts were analogous to pinning messages on a noticeboard in, for example, a workplace, where they could be read by a number of people.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Spouses and others in acrimonious disputes should avoid posting defamatory comments on social media such as Facebook, as this may amount to publishing them for the purposes of defamation law

Case ref: Stocker v Stocker [2018] EWCA Civ 170

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