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Protecting your reputation as you reopen for business

Even a casual glance at social media these days suggests that every individual reacts differently to the implementation of social distancing measures introduced at businesses to enable their reopening. Some appreciate the steps taken for their safety. Some feel it unnecessary. Others perceive social distancing measures that meet or exceed the guidelines as being inadequate.

Although most business owners and managers welcome the re-opening of their shop, pub or other premises, many have found it challenging to make the necessary arrangements to protect workers and customers. From adapting physical layouts and the flows of people within them to acquiring suitable PPE and disinfectant, many businesses have found implementing social distancing both costly and time consuming.

Imagine then, for a moment, the heartache – and very real business damage – that could be caused by an untruthful customer review, post from a disgruntled employee, or anonymous comment you’re certain came from a competitor:

“It was obvious our waitress had Corona!”

 “That place is so unclean you’re bound to catch the virus there.”

 “There were 100 or more people in the shop when I visited.”

 “The manager put me at risk by making me clean all the surfaces ten times a day.”

“Our manager is forcing us back to work in totally unsafe conditions – we’re virtually on top of each other”.

It might sound a bit far fetched, but we’ve seen content like this ourselves and business owners are clearly worried – calls on the Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio programme filled nearly an hour when the subject came up on his programme last week.

When a person publishes information that can be shown to have actually damaged the reputation of a person or business, and that information is untrue, it might be possible for NetRights to intervene on your behalf. Whether it’s getting the untrue content removed, securing a public redaction or apologies, or seeking financial compensation, we’re often able to remedy the situation before further reputational damage is caused.

[The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. Please contact NetRights to discuss your circumstances with our friendly and professional team.]

 

 

What actually happens in a libel trial?

Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp has recently been in the headlines for a different reason. The high-profile celebrity, along with his ex-wife Amber Heard, has been giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice in his libel case against publishers of The Sun newspaper.

Mr Depp, the claimant, is suing The Sun over an article in April 2018 which described him as a “wife-beater”.

What is libel? When does a case exist? Does it always have to go to court?

To bring a libel claim, the claimant (the person seeking to clear their name) must show that the words that they are complaining about have a defamatory meaning.  The legal definition of this is that the claimant must prove that the allegation lowers him or her ‘in the minds of right-thinking members of society’.

Nowadays a Judge will usually determine whether the allegations are defamatory and identify their ‘meaning’ at an earlier stage in a libel claim before the trial.  It is not uncommon for libel cases settle at this stage without going on to trial. The claimant must also show that the allegations being sued over have caused, or are likely to cause him or her, ‘serious harm’.  This was a measure introduced by the Defamation Act 2013 to weed out trivial libel claims.

Where claims are heard at trial, they are won or lost based on whether the publisher, or defendant, is able to make a valid defence. Libel defences include truth, honest opinion, absolute or qualified privilege and publication on a matter of public interest.

Where the publisher relies on the defence of truth, it will need to prove that the allegations complained of are ‘substantially true’.  The onus is on the publisher of the allegations to prove that they are true rather than on the claimant to prove that they are false.  In practice, both parties will seek to produce evidence to prove the truth or falsity of the allegations. This evidence will usually include witness evidence including from the claimant, as well as documentary evidence such as notes, text messages, emails, photographs and recordings.

After hearing from the witnesses for both parties and considering the documentary evidence the Judge will decide whether or not the publisher has a successful defence to the claim.  If there is a valid defence, then the claimant loses.  But if the Judge decides that the publisher’s defence is unsuccessful, and no other defences apply, then the claimant’s libel claim succeeds.  The Judge may also make findings on further matters including on the level of any damages.

However, most libel claims will settle before they reach trial, and more often in libel disputes an out of court settlement is achieved without the need for issuing court proceedings at all. Such settlements could include an apology, payment of financial compensation and removal of the allegations complained of.

Laura Baglow is a defamation lawyer with over 17 years’ experience.  For advice on potential defamation issues please contact Laura at NetRights on enquiries@netrights.co.uk or 020 7698 4427. See www.netrights.co.uk for further details.

Reputation matters: Defamation court claims increase by 22%

The latest figures published by the Ministry of Justice for 2019 reveal that defamation claims issued in the Royal Courts of Justice are continuing to rise significantly year on year. The figures show that litigation over defamatory statements has increased by 22% on the previous year and by as much as 107% on the year before that.

This upward trend underlines the tremendous importance of reputation.  The old adage ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ no longer holds water in today’s world of permanent publications and first impressions. Whereas previously a libellous statement written in a newspaper article would eventually be forgotten about, nowadays articles and online posts are available online indefinitely, making it difficult to outgrow a besmirched reputation. A positive reputation is vital for business and professional success so it is unsurprising that so many are taking to the courts to defend their honour.

The increase in social media use is likely to play a part in this upsurge in defamation claims. In the arena of Facebook and Twitter, anyone can become an instant publisher to a wide audience at the click of a button, leading many to experience the anguish of online defamation.

For help protecting your reputation including seeking removal of malicious or false online posts please contact NetRights at enquiries@netrights.co.uk or telephone 0207 698 4427.

Staying safer in video meetings

There has been a dramatic surge in the popularity of remote videoconferencing in recent months. Meetings in person have not been possible due to social distancing requirements so video meetings have been the next best way to keep in touch.  Remote meeting systems have proved to be valuable tools to help companies to operate whilst many staff are working from home. They have also been vital forms of communication for separated families and friends wishing to stay in contact with each other throughout the lockdown

However, use of video conferencing facilities can expose you and your company to risk. There have been cases of unauthorised people hijacking meetings where the platform has not been used securely and there is an increased risk of phishing.

To help protect yourself, your family and your staff, consider the following precautions:

  • Do not leave video meeting settings as “public”.
  • Set screen sharing to “host only”.
  • Send meeting links directly to the people you are inviting to attend the meeting, rather than posting or sharing links on social media that could be available to other or the general public. Only allow signed in users to participate.
  • Meeting hosts should set a password for access to the remote meeting or use the platform to control who is permitted to attend the meeting.
  • Use ‘waiting room’ facilities to screen participants before they are allowed to enter your meeting.
  • ‘Lock’ your meeting after all the expected participants have joined to avoid unwanted intruders.
  • Avoid file sharing with any users that you don’t recognise.
  • Where possible avoid referring to confidential or private information.
  • Make sure that you and your fellow meeting attendees keep video meeting applications fully updated.
  • Ensure that your firm’s information security policies deal with appropriate use of remote working systems.

 

The use of remote video conferencing facilities will always carry a degree of risk due to the nature of the platform, but these considerations should help you to avoid becoming a target.

NetRights is the Social Media, Internet and Media Law department of Parnalls Solicitors. For legal advice regarding breaches of confidential or private information, please contact NetRights at enquiries@netrights.co.uk or telephone 01566 772375.

The contents of this article are for purposes of general awareness only and do not constitute legal or professional advice.

Would you like to publish online with minimal legal risk?

Do you want to publish a controversial story or statement online or in the press? Or are you going to publish a book or magazine or video? Are you concerned about legal risks such as defamation, breach of confidence, infringement of privacy or trademark or copyright infringement?

Our experienced media lawyer has helped to safely publish and broadcast controversial articles for newspapers and magazines as well as television programmes for Channel 4.

Our aim is to enable you to say all the things that you want to say, but in a way that does not expose you to unnecessary legal risk. We will work closely with you to ensure that whatever it is that you wish to publish, gets published safely.

Contact NetRights on 0207 698 4427 or enquiries@netrights.co.uk for a no commitment fixed cost estimate.

Increased risk of online harm

As people are spending more time at home at the moment this means that more time is also being spent online.

This has its advantages, from enabling us to keep up to date with essential news to online shopping and staying in regular contact with family and friends. Social media use is on the increase with people searching for other ways to keep themselves entertained.

However, there is a darker side to this increased online activity, with more people turning to vindictive or malicious social media posts such as:

Revenge porn

Revenge porn is where intimate photos or videos of someone are shared online without their permission.  Often the sharer is a disgruntled ex-partner.  The government’s Revenge Porn Helpline* has reported increased number of calls from victims of intimate image abuse during the lockdown period. It is believed that both the increase in social media use and the heightened emotions at this time are responsible, with revenge porn often originating from controlling or abusive relationships.

Trolling and harassment

It is an unfortunate reality that people can feel more disinhibited when they are online and may engage in unacceptable behaviour that they might not contemplate in person. It is also easier for people to let their emotions get the better of them and make a malicious post in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, disgruntled people can turn to social media to target their victims and this can lead to repeated online insults, provocations or even threats.

False or malicious online posts

Some people decide to publicly air their personal grudges or grievances online or are even just motivated by boredom.  This can lead to false or malicious social media posts that attack the reputation of an individual or a company.

If you are on the receiving end of any of these activities, then we know that it can be deeply distressing as well as damaging to your reputation.

 

For help with any of the above issues, including seeking removal of online posts, please contact Laura Baglow at NetRights on 0207 698 4427.

 

*The government’s Revenge Porn Helpline number is 0345 6000459 and the Samaritans can be contacted at 116 123 or by email to jo@samaritans.org

Could carelessness on social media land you in court?

Did you know that you can be sued for posting something online that is not true or for sharing or endorsing a false post made by someone else?  Did you also know that if you are sued, you could be ordered to pay compensation and legal costs and forced to make a public apology?

If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, then you are not alone, as recent research suggests that nearly 50 per cent of the UK’s 45 million social media users are not aware that they are legally responsible for what they do and say online.

Social Media Training for Businesses

When it comes to social media, most businesses will have the usual… Facebook, Insta or LinkedIn accounts locally promoting their offering. This is the standard nowadays. So if we can all agree, whether we like to or not, that the world revolves around good socials as the new standard of advertising, then what does this mean for advertising standards?