UK Judge Attracts Libel Tourists With $775k Award To New Zealand Cricket Player Over Defamatory Tweet
from the twibel-tourism dept
The UK has become famous for its overly aggressive libel laws and how they lead to libel tourism, with people from other countries running internet libel cases through the UK to take advantage of the favorable laws. Add to that the rise of Twitter, and questions about Twitter libel, and you’ve got an interesting legal situation to deal with. THREsq reports that perhaps the UK is now about to become the hotspot for “twiibel tourism” after it awarded $775k to a New Zealand cricket player, Chris Cairns, after the ex-chair of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, had tweeted “Chris Cairns removed from the IPL auction list due to his past record in match fixing. This was done by the Governing Council today.” The news report doesn’t say if this is true or not, but the full ruling suggests there isn’t enough evidence to support the claim.
Even if we accept that the accusation of match fixing is, indeed, false, there are still questions about jurisdiction and the size of the award — made even more pressing considering how few people actually saw the tweet. From the court ruling:
The original Tweet was received by only a limited number of followers within England and Wales. One expert calculated that they numbered 95, the other 35. The parties have sensibly agreed that I should take the figure of 65. The second publication, to Cricinfo was on their website only for period of hours. The expert’s figures for numbers of readers of this publication are respectively 450 and 1500. I shall proceed on the basis that about 1000 people read the second publication, which I have found carried the less grave but nonetheless serious meaning that there were strong grounds for suspecting that the claimant had been involved in match fixing. In respect of the second publication I also bear in mind that Cricinfo have settled with the Claimant, paying him £7,000 damages and a further sum for costs.
And yet the court still decides that the harm is so great that Modi should be hit with massive damages. All this is going to do is ensure a flood of such cases in the UK.