Case summary: Monroe v Hopkins [2017] EWHC 433 (QB)

March 13, 2017

Judgment was handed down in the much publicised case of Monroe v Hopkins on Friday, 10 March 2017.  Libel cases over tweets are becoming increasingly common and the decision of Mr Justice Warby in this case again highlights that what is said on social media is subject to the same libel laws as elsewhere.

In reaching his decision, Mr Justice Warby had to consider what meanings were borne by Ms Hopkins’ tweet, whether those meanings were defamatory and whether they caused Ms Monroe serious harm.

Mr Justice Warby found that Ms Hopkins’ tweet directed at Ms Monroe, which read “Scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?”, caused Ms Monroe real and substantial distress and serious harm to her reputation. He ordered Ms Hopkins to pay Ms Monroe damages of £24,000 plus her legal costs.

In his Judgment, the Judge acknowledges that Twitter is “a relatively new medium” and in an attempt to assist those in understanding its mechanics he usefully appended a Schedule called “How Twitter Works”.

Whilst fact specific, the Judgment is a useful reminder to users of Twitter – and of social media more generally – of the potential cost of voicing false and seriously harmful comments online. In this case, if reports on the parties’ combined legal costs are to be believed (see here), Ms Hopkins’s tweet could cost her over £2,500 per character.

For the Judgment and the Schedule, “How Twitter Works”, click here.

Jessica Welch