The BBC falsely accused retired British politician Alistair McAlpine of child sexual abuse, and paid a hefty £185,000 fine to settle the matter earlier this month. But now McAlpine is also pressing for compensation from thousands of people who tweeted about the BBC story at the time.
In the United States, such a charge would be unlikely to stick. Our laws, for instance, may protect claims made with an honest and reasonable belief that they were true at the time. British law is notoriously friendly to claimants, such that foreigners sometimes try to get British jurisdiction for their libel suits even when the case has little connection to the country.
About 1,000 tweeters implicated McAlpine, and another 9,000 retweeted their messages, The Economist reports. McAlpine’s lawyers have told those with fewer than 500 followers they can make amends with an online apology and a donation to charity.
But they are pursuing compensation from the more high-profile tweeters.