19:11, July 08 106 0 theguardian.com

2017-07-08 19:11:03
Injunction halts ‘fake news’ campaign against UK businessman

Lawyers have tackled an online “fake news” campaign against a British businessman by serving an injunction against “persons unknown” in what is believed to set a legal precedent.

The victim, who cannot be named, was said to be the target of a concerted campaign of defamation involving false and doctored stories shared on social media. Whoever was behind the campaign ceased after confirming via a delivery receipt that they were aware of the injunction which was sent to an email address linked to them.

The case comes as governments try to crack down on fake news and hate speech. A law passed last month in Germany paves the way for social media companies to be fined up to €50m if they persistently fail to remove such content.

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Katy Colton from the law firm Mishcon de Reya, who was involved in the injunction, said that Germany was taking defamation seriously when it was becoming increasingly difficult to protect individuals from online abuse. “In this case, we were able to prevent the spread of ‘fake news’ by securing an injunction against ‘persons unknown’. What was critical was securing the injunction before the content went viral – making it a criminal offence for anybody to share it thereafter.”