Feature Legal — 27 February 2017

A lawyer specialising in social media, has warned of the risks of unwittingly entering into unilateral contracts by making throw-away comments on Twitter and other social platforms.

The warning from Susan Hall, a Partner at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, comes af
er a British ‘Alt-Right’ video blogger and editor is facing potential legal action after he made an offer on social media to fund trips for journalists to Sweden.

Paul Joseph Watson, editor of Infowars, Prison Planet, and Propaganda Matrix, made the offer on Twitter on 20 February 2017, tweeting: “Any journalist claiming Sweden is safe; I will pay for travel costs & accommodation for you to stay in crime ridden migrant suburbs of Malmo.”

Though Watson has apparently funded one journalist, freelancer and Vice Media contributor Tim Pool, to visit the city, a number of others are now claiming that they are also eligible under the terms of the offer. One, blogger and journalist James Patrick, has set up a Crowd Funder project to raise funds to bring a legal challenge against Watson for breach of contract.

Patrick claims that, through his Twitter offer, Watson might have unwittingly entered into a unilateral contract, using a ruling from 1892 as precedent. The case of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company [1892] regards claims made by the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company that they would pay £100 to anyone who contracted influenza after having used their product, which supposedly prevented the ailment.

Susan Hall explained: “When the claimant, Mrs Carlill, caught flu and claimed the £100, the Court of Appeal insisted the company make good on its promise, thus introducing the concept of a unilateral contract.

“Rather more recently, the Hoover “free flights” promotion cost the vacuum cleaner company in excess of £50million, based on similar reasoning. So there are certainly precedents which could lead to Mr Watson being forced to follow through on his offer to all claimants.

“The Carbolic Smoke Ball precedent may have come back to bite the Twitter generation. A unilateral contract requires an offer made to an identifiable class of people who accept it by performance.”

Watson’s offer came on the back of President Donald Trump’s erroneous comment apparently referring to a terror attack on the Scandinavian country and subsequent tweets about the increasing levels of crime, supposedly fuelled by Sweden’s immigration policy.

The website and twitter commentary, made under the name of ‘Prison Planet’, has made numerous claims about Sweden, and in particular Malmӧ, being a hotbed of violence perpetrated by the significant immigrant population there.

Susan continued: “If the small claims court find against Paul Joseph Watson, it could be quite a party when the press hit Malmӧ.”

For more information visit www.clarkewillmott.com



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