Categories: Facebook

Cat rescuers must respect people’s privacy in Facebook postings

This is an interesting and perhaps a landmark legal case regarding writing posts on Facebook which disclose private information about others. The case in question does not concern cats in any way but it sets a precedent. There are a lot of cat rescue Facebook groups and sometimes the comments can become heated because cat rescuers are passionate about their voluntary work.

Lady justice

Arguments can flare up and words can be written which should not be written because after this UK case it is conceivable that citizens of other countries could be exposed to a claim for damages for breaking privacy laws. Most countries have privacy laws of some sort. They are often fiercely upheld as a fundamental right (or should be). And precedents from one country can affect how judges assess claims in another country.

In this case, reported in The Times newspaper (hard copy), a 24-year-old woman successfully sued her uncle because he posted on Facebook that she was receiving “treatment for mental health and self-harm”. He wanted to undermine and attack her because of a long-running family row.

The uncle’s post was online for a mere 3 hours and it is thought that only 35 people read it but it was enough for High Court judge Lewis to grant the woman £15,000 in damages for a breach of her privacy.

…this ruling makes it clear that posts are actionable like any other publication…

Users of Facebook tend to think of comments and posts as private gossip at the water cooler in the office. But even when the comments are seen by family members and no one else they can be defamatory or be a breach of privacy.

There is a lot of unaddressed defamation on the internet. This is because it is too hard to bring a claim for compensation on an international level or because it is too expensive. But it only takes one determined person to go for it as this brave woman demonstrated and the writer of an overly harsh or emotional comment can find themselves burdened with a long-running legal case which spoils their life for perhaps a year or more and which ends up with a judgement against them of thousands of pounds or dollars. It is a warning to us all. This case opens doors to all claims on all social media websites.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I also have hope that this bodes well for anyone seeking justice from those who use any media (especially social) to oppress and retaliate against their critics. The caution I have is that, as with much of litigation, those who can afford the best lawyers get the higher hand. For example, I've been critical of the people who run (and have influence with) the major players in the cat rescue community in my area. As I've said, they are geared toward pit bull proliferation and everything they do, including cat rescue/TNR/adoption, supports that. Even Best Friends Animal Society who is openly prop pit bull to the extreme, who've ganged up on me merely for expressing the simple statement that I won't donate to them because they do that. Like our President Trump and the right wing gang he has going on here who spread lies and misinformation and tactical subversion to pursue their political agenda, including Donald's latest attack on the Twitter company for merely posting a link to fact check a hugely false statement by him, large organizations could misuse the legal system to oppress similar efforts get the truth out. Trump goes one further though by trying to legislate his bullying, even going around congress to simply write a presidential order, like a king, to turn his pet social media platform into his personal state-run means to subvert our entire democracy as he already has been doing. I just don't know who to trust anymore because everyone is into bullying these days. That man has really made it popular though.

    • Well deep pockets count in litigation. I guess that is what you are referring to.

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