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Sharing is caring? The legal ramifications of defamatory retweets

In an order delivered in November 2013, the Delhi High Court considered whether a defamatory post on Facebook resulted in a single cause of action for which the statute of limitations began to run from the date of the original posting, or whether it gave rise to a recurring cause of action as and when viewed. While alluding to the lack of judicial precedents on this issue, Justice Vipin Sanghi elaborated on the two conflicting legal positions: the single publication rule and the multiple publication rule adopted by various countries, including the UK, the US and Canada.

The multiple publication rule, currently followed in Canada, construes every article/statement published or republished to result in “an individual, discrete, actionable, defamatory” cause of action. On the contrary, the single publication rule, followed in the US and UK, recognizes that multiple dissemination or distribution of the original page/post would not give rise to a fresh cause of action.

Adopting the multiple publication rule would mean that the limitation period sets in from the time of the last publication rather than the time of the original publication. Following a detailed analysis of various jurisdictions, the Delhi High Court found the single publication rule “more appropriate and pragmatic.” Depending on which rule is applied, a retweet/repost may or may not amount to a fresh cause of action. The sole exception identified was that a republication would amount to a fresh cause of action if it were publicized to a “different or larger section of the public.”

Source: Barandbench

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