Social media blamed for sharp rise in online defamation cases


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The number of court cases brought by people who say they have been defamed online has more than doubled in a year, as social networks become prime ground for the spread of defamatory information.

The growing use of social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook are thought to be the main cause of the surge over the past year, during which internet-related libel cases in England and Wales rose from seven to 16.

Singer Courtney Love is among those who have fallen foul of online defamation laws, and is currently being sued for a second time for posting defamatory statements on Twitter.

Ms Love paid $430,000 (£263,000) to settle a lawsuit brought against her by designer Dawn Simonrangkir in March this year after calling her a "nasty lying hosebag thief" on Twitter in a dispute over money.

She is now being sued again for defamation after making allegedly libellous statements about the law firm that used to represent her, also on Twitter. The new figures, drawn from legal information provider Sweet and Maxwell's Lawtel and Westlaw UK services, have led to calls for more accountability for what people write online.

They also showed that there was a large drop – 59 per cent – in the number of celebrities suing for defamation, down from 22 in 2009/10 to only nine in the past year.