British court hands down first libel fine for tweet

12th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A former Welsh mayor became the first Briton to be ordered to pay libel damages over a Twitter entry after a political rival sued him in the high court, a report said on Saturday.

Colin Elsbury, a former mayor in the south Wales town of Caerphilly had tweeted ahead of a council election that his independent challenger Eddie Talbot had been "forcibly removed" from a polling station by police before realising that it was a case of mistaken identity, The Times newspaper said.

Although Elsbury later tried to correct the tweet, Talbot took him to court in the Welsh capital Cardiff where a judge on Friday handed down a fine of £3,000 (about 3,500 euros) and ordered him to pay costs of around £50,000 as well as apologise publicly to Talbot on his Twitter feed.

"This was a genuine case of mistaken identity which I have acknowledged," Elsbury, a member of the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru party, said after the verdict.

"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."

Talbot's lawyer also warned that the ruling could open the floodgates to similar libel claims, in line with the United States where they have become known as "Twibels".

"It is the first case that I have heard of in Britain but no doubt that there will be more when people realise they can sue for Twitter libel."

© 2011 AFP

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