Case law: Ex-spouse found liable under defamation laws for comments about former husband on social media
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.
This update was published in Legal Alert - April 2018
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Please note: A newer article on this case was published in the November 2019 edition of Legal Alert following subsequent developments in the legal process.
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.
- 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  EWCA Civ 170
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