Twitter libel action does not need to be heard in High Court, judge rules

Ruling may have implications for others suing social media giants in Northern Ireland

A businessman from Northern Ireland has won a landmark legal battle over the venue for his libel action against Twitter.

He successfully resisted attempts to have the lawsuit transferred from the County Court to the High Court, where a potentially more prohibitive costs regime operates.

A solicitor for the plaintiff, who cannot be identified, claimed the outcome will lead to a “tsunami” of similar actions across the UK.

Kevin Winters said: “This ruling has seismic implications for all victims of offensive social media content.


“It realigns the balance of power away from social media giants and gives everyone a chance now to take on the various platforms.”

The businessman is suing Twitter over an alleged failure to remove a posting which called into question his reputation.

He is seeking £10,000 in damages for libel and breach of data protection rights.

Proceedings were issued at the County Court where litigants’ potential exposure to legal costs is limited.

It is believed to be the first time that a social media company has been sued at that level in Northern Ireland.

Lawyers representing Twitter applied to have the case moved to the High Court due to the complexities of relevant EU law.

But the businessman’s legal team argued that case law on ecommerce Regulations is now well enough established for the County Court to deal with the case.

A Master sitting at the High Court refused Twitter’s application after commenting on how social media is now a normal part of life, according to the plaintiff’s solicitor.

Mr Winters predicted that others will no longer feel financially barred from taking action to protect their reputations.

“This will lead to a tsunami of legal agitation not only here, but also in England and Wales,” he added. “This ruling is truly a game changer in policing and oversight of social media.”