A recent study by legal information firm Sweet and Maxwell has discovered a significant increase in internet-related libel cases throughout England and Wales, thanks in large part to micro-blogging service Twitter.
While the number of cases only jumped from 7 to 16 in the year to May 31, 2011, that more than a 100% increase and none of those cases involved “established” media companies according to the study.
The study also found that more companies and small businesses are suing to protect their reputation with lawsuits increasing from five lawsuits in 2009, to 16 companies filing cases in 2010.
In an article related to the issue of defamation The Guardian’s Korrieh Duodo noted:
“Social media tools have over a billion users worldwide and are growing rapidly in popularity. Nevertheless, they can present a huge problem for individuals and corporates trying to protect their reputations from harmful user-generated content. There is certainly a need for greater accountability of the providers of user-generated content; a need to tighten the regulatory framework within which they operate.”
Duodo goes on to note that lawsuits often occur because:
“People who find themselves damaged on social media sites can often find it time-consuming and difficult to have the offending material removed, because many platform providers do not accept responsibility for their users’ content.”
It’s also important to remember that some lawsuits occur because messages spread so quickly on Twitter where a simple “retweet” button allows users to spread information immediately, ruining the reputation of company’s and people. As more company’s worry about their tarnished images they are turning to the legal system to punish offenders and restore their reputation while sending stern warning to offenders.