Reading about the apparent decline of defamation proceedings in the Law Society Gazette doesn't surprise me. It has become less likely that proceedings will be pursued with requirements on level of harm and defences on truth and honest opinion meaning that less serious claims are often not worth escalating.
In part, this is positive - if it pushes more disputes in this area to pre-action resolution, say via undertakings given by one party to the other with removal or retraction of material, then I support that.
However, the article goes on to report that social media cases are the one area of defamation that is rising. This certainly has a ring of truth as social media gives an instant forum where most do not seem to give the same care to their comments. It also still gives a forum for trolls and hidden avatars where Norwich Pharmacal style proceedings may still also be needed.
My conclusion is that perhaps there is a question here for the social media providers. Certainly my experience with cases concerning Facebook has given me the view that some of their policies and reactions to concerns being highlighted are circular and contradictory. It is important to remember that potentially providers themselves can fall foul of defamation actions with active ignorance of individual cases.
Perhaps the latest findings will push social media outlets to further consider how they monitor, edit and remove content. It is surely their biggest question and challenge moving forward in today's society.
The number of reported defamation cases in the UK is at the lowest level since 2008/9, partly due to the Defamation Act 2013, according to research published today. A total of 58 cases were brought last year, down 8% from the year before, legal publisher Thomson Reuters said. It noted that the act, which came into force in 2014, made it more difficult for businesses to bring successful claims against newspapers and other publishers. Just 10 defamation court cases were brought by businesses last year, a 41% drop from 17 the year before.