Twitter Libel Case: Local Politics Sees Former Mayor Fined

We’ve all heard of instances where people have said the wrong things on Twitter or Facebook and lived to regret it, but did you know that you could be open to libel charges for things you say on Twitter. Well that’s certainly the case and in Britain the first person to be fined for libel for something said on Twitter, is a former Welsh mayor, called Colin Elsbury.

Elsbury was mayor of Caerphilly and during town council elections tweeted that one of his rivals, Eddie Talbot, had been “forcibly removed” by the police, from a polling station, according to the Daily Mail. Unfortunately for Elsbury, 41, this was completely false and instead it had been another person that had been ejected. Mr. Elsbury must now pay compensation of £3,000 and is facing huge legal costs of up to £50,000 for what he claims was a case of mistaken identity. Elsbury has also been ordered to apologize for his error using his Twitter account, which seems like rubbing it in a bit!

The county council by-election took place in 2009 when Elsbury was seeking to be elected over Mr. Talbot and tweeted, “It’s not in our nature to deride our opponents however Eddie Talbot had to be removed by Police from the Polling Station.” Mr. Talbot, who was standing as an independent candidate, sued for defamation of character and the case was finally settled at the High Court in Cardiff. No doubt as people start to realize they can sue for libel for things said on Twitter we’ll begin to see more and more of these cases, which in the U.S. are referred to as “Twibel” cases.

Mr. Elsbury said after the case, “This was a genuine case of mistaken identity which I have acknowledged. I have agreed to pay compensation and offered to make a substantial donation to charity or a good cause. This case will no doubt act as a warning to people, including politicians, to be extremely careful when using Twitter and other social media such as blogs.”

It’s certainly a timely reminder that we should all be more careful about the things we tweet. What are your thoughts on this libel case and will it make you more cautious about the things you say on social networking sites? We’d be interested to hear from you so let us have your comments

  • trefor bond

    This articel is wrong in respect to the comment that ANYONE was removed by the police from a polling station, no-one was, and a defence of mistaken identity cannot be established in this particular case, and one should check the detail before committing comment paper as the case testifies.