Can children stomach libel & defamation?

General - Interesting Topics

What are your children taught at school these days? Maths, English, science, French, history and libel and defamation law? Yes, that’s right, school dinners got a revamp from TV chef Jamie Oliver and now it looks like the recent scandal over Lord McAlpine (see our earlier blog on this) means a revamp to the curriculum in the form of lessons on libel and defamation law and the safe use of social media.

A private school in Taunton, Somerset has recently announced they will be teaching pupils about the libel and defamation risks associated with Twitter, Facebook and social media in general. This follows Lord McApline making it known that he was going to sue numerous Twitter users who tweeted and re-tweeted unfounded allegations of the former Conservative Party Treasurer being linked with child abuse. The aim of this new subject is to keep children safe on the internet and make them aware of the legal ramifications of posting or tweeting statements about others – especially those which could seriously damage the reputation or life of the subject and are potentially libellous or defamatory. The school appears to have taken the recent controversy and jumped on the chance to educate pupils about the dangers of social media and the possibility of being chased for compensation over a tweet or post. Lessons will also focus on other social media risk such as universities and employers checking the Facebook profiles of applicants to get a feel for what that person is like – very dangerous when you consider that things posted on the internet can be seen by anyone and never fully disappear even if you think they have been deleted.

Given the dangers of social media and the recent controversy surrounding Lord McAlpine it is sensible that users, particularly children, are aware of the dangers involved. Keeping children safe online is important when access to social media is widely available to anyone and everyone from laptops, internet tablets and smart phones.

Whether the approach from the school in Taunton will follow in other schools is yet to be seen but it can definitely be said that it is pleasing to see a practical and pragmatic approach from the school to the changes in technology and growing use of social media. It is all well and good being able to spell but a grammatically and eloquently written tweet or post will not provide a defence to a libel or defamation action!

All information is correct on the date of posting.