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Libel on Twitter

Libel on Twitter

A Welsh councillor has sued successfully for libel in response to a comment left on Twitter.

A political rival, Eddie Talbot, claimed that Colin Elsbury had been ejected from a polling station by the police during a by-election in 2009.

This was not true: a member of the public had been evicted instead.

Although Mr Talbot sought to backtrack later on Twitter, accepting it was a case of ‘mistaken identity’, this did not prevent a libel action.

Mr Elsbury, who actually beat Mr Talbot in the election by 160 votes, claimed that he had suffered ‘anger upset and ridicule’ over the comment. He accepted an agreed settlement of £3,000 compensation although has not been a winner in the monetary sense because he did not recover his substantial legal costs .

This is believed to be the first successful Twitter libel action in the UK. But the path had already been set across The Pond. US rock star Courtney Love paid out $420,000 in an out of court settlement to fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir whom she had accused of theft.

Mr Talbot said after the case: ‘This sends out a message to people to be careful what they say on social network sites – it could prove expensive’

Anthony Wooding