Using social media platforms as a business can be extremely valuable. Most people tend to use some form of social media. Social media can allow your business to reach a much wider audience than traditional methods. Communications and recommendations can be instant, but it can go wrong. Maybe you have made a statement or shared something that has divided opinions, or you have a disgruntled customer or ex-employee. In these situations, your business presence on social media or you personally could be abused. It could be harassment, an internet troll, or alleged defamatory statements. All of which could ultimately damage your business. With the ability to be anonymous on social media, what can you do if your abuser is using an alias or fictitious name.
If the claimant does not know the real identity of those responsible for the alleged abuse, then the claimant could apply for a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO). A NPO can compel a third party such as, a social media platform, to disclose documents that will identify the potential defendant. This could be the IP addresses of the user. The order was originally established in Norwich Pharmacal v Customs and Excise Commissioners . The House of Lords concluded that there can be a need, for the court to be able to, force a third party to provide certain information.
The use of NPO’s has increased with the use of social media. Many people believe that a false account will provide them with anonymity, whilst committing defamation and harassment.
Lightman J in Mitsui and Co Ltd v Nexen Petroleum Ltd  established three requirements needed for a NPO.
- A wrong must have been, or arguably been committed by the alleged wrongdoer. For example, are the statements defamatory.
- The claimant needs to be seeking some sought of redress against the wrongdoer. If the information is not necessary or the intended use is improper, a NPO will not be approved. The information must be needed to be able to bring action against the alleged defendant. The court will be hesitant to approve the NPO if the information can be attained another way. The claimant would have to show that any other methods are not viable.
- The final requirement is that the third party must be mixed-up in the wrongdoing, to such an extent that they are not just a witness.
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