This case is a stark reminder that the internet is not entirely the Wild West that it is made out to be. Whilst there may be evidential difficulties in authorities prosecuting or individuals & companies pursuing claims in relation to untrue or malicious comments made online they are still subject to the same laws as if they were made or published elsewhere.
In the case of Oyston v Reed the High Court has awarded aggravated damages to the chairman of a football club after a supporter of the club posted false allegations against him on a supporters’ website.
The High Court has awarded the chairman of Blackpool Football Club aggravated damages of £30,000 after a supporter of the club posted false allegations against him on a supporters’ website. An order was also made prohibiting the supporter from repeating the same or similar libels.
The defendant was concerned about the way the club had been managed since the claimant’s father was involved in its purchase. In 2015, the defendant posted material on a supporters’ website alleging that the claimant had entered into a foul-mouthed rant at him in public, had brandished a shotgun in such a manner as to make the defendant believe that he was about to be shot, and had put him in fear of his safety or even his life.
The defendant accepted that the claimant had not done what was alleged and unreservedly apologised for the email sent to the claimant’s wife, but that acceptance did not come until the day of the hearing and it was clear that the email had been intended for the claimant’s wife to receive and read; those factors were taken into account in aggravation of the damages.
So, if you are a keyboard warrior be careful what you post and if you have been the subject of such allegations then you may have recourse should those allegations be false.