World’s Second Twitter Libel Case Ends in Tens of Thousands of Pounds in Damages Paid

If Courtney Love’s case wasn’t lesson enough, here’s another one to make you pause before you hit “tweet”: the world’s second Twitter libel case has been settled in favor of the individual alleging defamation in 140-characters or less. A British politician will pay damages of £3,000 and the legal fees of the plaintiff.

It was a case of some last-minute political smear campaigning that went a little too far. According to the local newspaper WalesOnline, a Welsh politician, Colin Elsbury, tweeted the following message on the day of a council election in 2009:

“It’s not in our nature to deride our opponents however Eddie Talbot had to be removed by the Police from a polling station.”

Talbot was a rival in the election, and ended up losing the fight for the council seat to Elsbury by 160 votes.

In the second case of its kind, Talbot brought Elsbury to court over the tweet. He claimed that Elsbury smeared his name and damaged his reputation with that tweet. Elsbury was apparently suffering from a case of “mistaken identity” when he claimed that Talbot was the man thrown out of the polling station. And, despite the fact the Elsbury tweeted his mistake eight hours later, the polls had already closed and Talbot asserts that the damage had been done.

The judge agreed with Talbot, and ordered Elsbury to pay Talbot £3,000 in damages as well as his legal expenses of more than £50,000, as WalesOnline reports.

Elsbury also had to post an apology on his Twitter account. While it’s not verified, we think this is his account, given that it includes a five-tweet-long apology to Talbot, which reads in full:

“On 4 June 2009 I stood as a candidate in the Caerphilly County Borough Council Local Government Election for the St Martin’s Ward, alongside…others including Councillor Edward John Talbot, the Independent Candidate. On that day, I posted a statement on my Twitter page and electio…n blog that Councillor Talbot had to be removed from a Polling Station by the Police. I accept that statement was completely untrue and defa…tory of Councillor Talbot and I hereby unreservedly apologise to him for any distress, hurt, upset, embarrassment and damage to his reputati…on I may have caused him because of that statement. I have agreed to pay Councillor Talbot damages and his legal costs as a result”

This is the second Twitter defamation case of its kind, following on the heels of Courtney Love settling outside of court for $430,000.

Publish date: March 15, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT