A couple of cases recently attracted my attention. They were both defamation actions involving comments made on social media. In a Donegal case, a lady took an action when she was accused on Facebook of having an affair. She was not having an affair and the person who made the posting, who admitted he was entirely in the wrong, was a neighbour. He was not holding any grievance and there does not appear to be any explanation why he acted in this manner. She was also accused of being overweight but I hope this did not attract any substantial part of the settlement. The second case involved the recently sacked journalist Katie Hopkins. The exceptionally unpleasant Ms Hopkins accused the plaintiff of vandalising war memorials and subsequently described her as a form of “social anthrax”.
I can see how cases such as this would attract reasonably substantial damages but I have to say it concerns me greatly that it appears that some of the judges hearing these cases appear to be venting their anger and upset at Facebook and Twitter by awarding damages which in some cases seem to be far greater than they really deserve in my view. For instance when I look at the compensation a person might get if they receive a fairly serious whiplash injury and it lasts for five, six or seven years or if they have any form of injury that has psychiatric side effects, you really have to produce extremely strong evidence to prove the ongoing effect on you.
Judges would be far better directing their comments to politicians and lawmakers to try and undo the damage they have done in making it exceptionally difficult to sue Facebook or Twitter or any other social media platform. They should be the targets just as much as the various individuals named as defendants.