Misconceptions and Weaponisation of 'SLAPPs'
Partner Gideon Benaim comments on misconceptions around the prevalence of Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and stresses the importance of continuing to allow legitimate claims to be made, in The Law Society Gazette.
"From the perspective of most claimant lawyers, the court already has sufficient powers to deal with abuses of the legal system, and the issue of SLAPPs isn’t as widespread as has been portrayed. Whilst it is clearly important to deter and prevent abusive behaviour, given that in our experience it isn’t a common issue, any legislative, regulatory or court procedure changes ought to very carefully ensure that legitimate complainants are not adversely impacted. There is a genuine risk that in attempting to deal with a perceived but limited problem, and even with the best intentions, access to justice and expert legal advice could well be severely curtailed; and that would not be in the public interest.
"When the SRA conducted a ‘Thematic Review’ of 25 firms who practice in this area, selecting 2 files from a full list that was given to them of all matters that had been closed in the preceding 18 months, they “did not find evidence of SLAPPs”.
"Further, there is a danger that actions might routinely – perhaps carelessly – be described as being a SLAPP but are not one, as was the case in Banks v Cadwalladr."
On defamation and AI, Gideon stated that:
"Liability for defamation could be laid at the door of a number of entities. The information that the AI was taught from could itself contain defamatory statements which, if the source is identifiable, could be actionable against the source. The company who controls the AI service could also have liability. Importantly, anyone who repeats the defamatory statement can themselves be held liable for its repetition. Users of AI services such as ChatGPT should therefore not assume that they are safe from the risk of personally defaming someone simply because they are repeating what has been generated. The law will apply to them too."
Gideon's comments were published in The Law Society Gazette, 19 May 2023.