False information published to mislead people is sometimes called 'fake news'.

Fake news could be about a person, a company, an event or anything else.

It can be spread across the world within seconds on the internet.

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, for example, there was a lot of fake news spread about the virus including various conspiracy theories.

Fact checking websites like Full Fact can help to stop the spread of fake news.

What you can do

If false information about you is on the internet, you can ask for it to be removed.

Ask the person who posted it first. If that doesn't work, speak to the website where the information was posted.

It could also be taken down through legal action.

An offence may have been committed if any of the following applies:

  1. The information is indecent, offensive or threatening. This could be malicious.
  2. The information is damaging to your reputation. This could be defamation.
  3. The information has been posted more than once. This could amount to harassment.

If you think you've been a victim, you should report it to the police. You could also speak to a legal adviser.

Injunctions

If someone continues to post false information about you, there are things you can do to stop this.

You may be able to apply for an injunction from the court which would prevent those posting the false information from continuing to do so. If they carried on, they could be sanctioned by the Court.

Injunctions can also be used to stop false information being spread about you in the first place. However, getting an injunction can be difficult. And only a court can grant an injunction.

An injunction may be awarded by the court in the following circumstances, namely if:

  1. it can be shown that there is good cause to grant an injunction as the person threatening to post the false information may breach your rights or is acting in an unreasonable manner;
  2. the court feels it would be just and convenient;
  3. damages would not compensate for the wrongdoing.

If you are faced with this situation, you should contact a legal adviser for help.

Right to be forgotten

Companies hold lots of information about us. You have the right for this to be deleted. This is often called your 'right to be forgotten'. It is also called your right to erasure.

Information stored about you could include your

  • name
  • address
  • contact details
  • date of birth
  • religion
  • ethnicity
  • health conditions.

You can tell organisations to delete your details if any of the following applies:

  1. They no longer need your details.
  2. You said they could have your details, but you've now changed your mind.
  3. You don't want them to use your details.
  4. You think they collected your details unlawfully.
  5. They collected your details when you were a child.

You can contact the organisation directly to tell them what information you want them to delete. You can do this verbally or in writing. They should tell anyone they have shared your details with to do the same. This is usually free of charge.

An organisation need not comply with your request if they hold your details for any of the following reasons:

  1. to comply with a legal obligation
  2. to carry out a task in the public interest or in an official capacity
  3. for archiving purposes in the public interest
  4. for research
  5. for the purpose of making a legal claim.

More information

Good to know

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We just tell you about things that are good to know to help you make better choices about legal issues and lawyers.

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