It was a case of one political victory to one candidate and one court victory to the other in a couple of election day battles. Colin Elsbury had beaten Eddie Talbot in a closely contested Welsh council election in 2009. However, he then got caught up in the moment and, like a lot of people on Twitter, posted a quick comment on the platform that he later regretted because he had not considered the post carefully enough. In his Tweet, the victorious councillor claimed that his political rival had had to be escorted away from the election count by the police. In fact, it was another man who had to be removed from the polling station.
Consequently, Talbot sued for libel. In a settlement approved by the High Court, Elsbury agreed to pay £3,000 in damages plus the election loser’s costs. Elsbury also had to post an apology on Twitter in which he accepted that the statement was totally untrue and defamatory and he unreservedly apologised for any distress, hurt, upset, embarrassment and reputation damage.
With ever-faster and more instantaneous communications platforms, people assume that they have to give a running commentary immediately. That may be what they want to do and what their followers expect, but this case is a good reminder of the legal consequences of posting, sending or Tweeting without checking properly first.