A UK libel judge has ruled that all sarcastic comments made in public are potentially libellous and should be strictly avoided if users do not want to run the risk of being sued by someone with a lot more money and connections than they have.
The ruling came after a judge in the UK High Court ruled writing *innocent face* was in legal terms an act of libellous sarcasm if the author’s face is clearly not in the least bit innocent – like Sally Bercow’s, the very un-innocent looking wife of the speaker of the UK parliament.
The judge also ruled that users of social media sites should make use of a special ‘sarcasm font’ to avoid ambiguity when tweeting or posting comments on social media sites.
Here are some examples of comments which could now be considered libellous under UK law if not written in sarcasm font (technical note – if you have not downloaded the new Microsoft ‘sarcasm font’ onto your computer it may not show up in the following comments):
- David Cameron got where he is today by being a hard-working striver.
- I’m not racist but …..
- Tax cuts for the rich mean the wealth will trickle down to everyone else.
- UKIP is a non-racist, non-homophobic party
- Justin Bieber – world-renowned artist and widely-acclaimed singer of international repute.
- Tuition fees are much more affordable now they’ve been tripled.
- Dr Liam Fox and Adam Werrity are just good friends.
- UK libel laws are designed to protect everyone from defamatory comments regardless of their financial standing, connections or influence.
If you can think of any more comments which should now be written in sarcasm font – please post them in the comments below. Thanks.
Tomorrow I’ll write a more serious blog post about why the McAlpine libel decision yesterday is making an even bigger international laughing stock of UK libel law than it already was.