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Website Defamation Notice Fill out the template

Website Defamation Notice

Last revision
Last revision 18/06/2023
Formats Word and PDF
Size 6 to 7 pages
Rating 5 - 1 vote
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Last revisionLast revision: 18/06/2023

FormatsAvailable formats: Word and PDF

SizeSize: 6 to 7 pages

Option: Help from a lawyer

Rating: 5 - 1 vote

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Website Defamation Notice

This document is a website defamation notice which can be used by individuals or businesses to make a request to the owner of a website/host of the online platform (a website operator) to remove defamatory content posted by a user of the website. The document can be used where the claim for defamation is applicable within the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

Circumstances where a website defamation notice may be appropriate

This document is designed for use where it has not been possible to identify the individual website user who has been responsible for posting defamatory content. In those circumstances, it can be useful to send this notice to the website operator in order to request that the material is removed from the website.

Online platforms may only become liable for any content it is hosting that infringes defamation laws where it has received proper notice of the same. Furthermore, it would only be appropriate to obtain court remedies (such as an injunction) when an online platform has knowledge of the content. This notice, therefore:

  • provides the online platform with formal notice (i.e knowledge) that it is hosting content which is defamatory; and
  • makes a formal request that the content is removed.

A person or business may therefore wish to send a defamation to a website operator where:

  • the person who has posted the defamatory content is anonymous; or
  • the person who has posted the defamatory content has a username on the website, but their identity cannot be determined; or
  • The real-life name of the person who posted the defamatory content is known, but it has not been possible to ascertain their contact details in order to issue a legal warning or bring proceedings against that person.

If the sender knows the identity and the contact details of the person responsible for the post and has sufficient information to provide that person with a formal warning/bring proceedings against them, then this document should not be used. In those circumstances, the matter should be raised with the person who has made the statement directly.

Definition of defamation

A defamatory statement is a statement which has an adverse impact on the reputation of an individual. In the case of content which is posted online, this will fall under the category of libel which is a form of defamation.

In order to be considered defamatory, it is necessary to show that the statement has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the person concerned.

A defendant to any defamation action may be able to raise a defence in any subsequent legal proceedings. Two important defences may be raised where it can be made out that the statement was:

(a) factually true; or

(b) that the statement was an honestly held opinion which was based on facts known at the time.

Contents of the notice

It is therefore important to address the above factors within the defamation notice, to explain to the website operator why the particulars of defamation are made out.

There are also other specific factors which must, by law, be addressed within a defamation notice. The questionnaire within the document will ask each of those points so that they may be addressed within the notice.

How to use this document

This document should be completed with all the relevant factual information relating to the defamatory statements. In cases where multiple defamatory statements were made by the same user on the website, then this document allows for up to 5 separate defamatory statements to be included.

It is very important that the notice is completed accurately and in full with all the relevant information. If any information is missing, the notice might be considered invalid and the website may not process the request.

Following completion of the document, the sender may electronically sign the document and send it by email to the website operator's email address. It is useful to request a delivery receipt, in case proof of delivery of the email is required in the future. If the website operator's postal address is known, the document may also be printed, signed and sent by registered mail to the website operator. In those circumstances, it is important to keep the relevant proof of delivery.

Upon the website operator's receipt of the notice, they have certain legal obligations which they must comply with:

  • Where the website operator does not have the contact details for the person who is responsible for the defamatory content, the content should be removed within 48 hours (not including non-business days or public holidays). The website operator should also notify the sender that the content has been removed.
  • Where the website operator does have the contact details for the person who is responsible for the defamatory content, then they must contact that person within 48 hours (not including non-business days or public holidays) of receiving the notice, notifying them of the complaint. The website operator must also inform the sender of the action they have taken within the 48-hour timeframe. The person responsible for the defamatory content must then respond within 5 days (not including non-business days or public holidays) otherwise the content must be removed by the website operator. Where this is not the case, the next steps will depend upon the response provided by the person responsible for the defamatory content. It may be necessary to instigate proceedings against that person directly.
  • where the case involves persistent reposting, the website must remove the content within 48 hours (not including non-business days or public holidays) of its receipt of the notice. Persistent reposting will apply where the same user has posted the same defamatory content on the same website, and where the sender has already successfully requested the removal of that content on two or more occasions.

If the website operator does not comply with the full process outlined above, then the sender may wish to issue proceedings against the website operator directly.

Relevant law

The Defamation Act 2013

The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013

Regulation 19 of the E-Commerce Regulations (SI 2002/2013)

The Ministry of Justice published a very useful guide entitled Complaints about Defamatory material posted on Websites: Guidance on Section 5 of the Defamation Act 2013 and Regulations

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