The growing use of social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook are thought to be the main cause of the surge after a year which saw internet-related libel cases in England and Wales rise from seven to 16.
The singer Courtney Love is among those who have fallen foul of online defamation laws. She is being sued for a second time for posting defamatory statements on Twitter. Ms Love paid $430,000 (£263,000) to settle a lawsuit brought against her by the designer Dawn Simonrangkir in March after calling her a nasty lying hosebag thief on Twitter in a dispute over money.
The barrister Korieh Duodu, a media specialist with Addleshaw Goddard, said a good deal of material on the internet is written by non-professionals without any of the fact-checking in traditional media organisations: There is certainly a need for greater accountability of the providers of user-generated content. He added: People who find themselves damaged on social media sites can find it time-consuming and difficult to have the offending material removed, because many platform providers do not accept responsibility for their users’ content.
The UK Government is looking to reform the law with a draft Defamation Bill, currently going through Westminster, which ministers say will help to ensure that people can state honest opinions on the internet with confidence.