It's done in a fit of anger or outrage, often late at night
after more than a few drinks. But it can have serious consequences
and increasingly can lead to court action that ends up costing a
lot of money.
Typing nasty comments about somebody on social media whether it
is via a blog, on Facebook, on Twitter or even retweeting someone
else's offensive tweet can amount to defamation under the law.
Just because it is broadcast by an individual over social media and
heads out into the ether rather than printed in a newspaper or
broadcast by a major media organization such as a television or
radio station does not mean the defamation is immune from the
Victims of defamatory comments on social media are increasingly
seeking retribution through the law. In recent cases a NSW teenager
was ordered by a court to pay $105,000 for defaming a teacher on
Twitter. In Western Australia a woman had to pay $12,500 to her
ex-husband after posting damaging claims about him on Facebook. A
couple were hit with a $15,000 legal bill after making comments
about their neighbour's dog on a community Facebook page.
The great danger of posting nasty comments about somebody on
social media is that, while the intention might have been for just
a handful of people to read it, comments can be easily passed on
and the message goes 'viral' and suddenly hundreds and
thousands of people see the comment.
Even people who re-tweet defamatory comments can, under the
current law of defamation, be held liable just as a major media
organisation is liable for printing or broadcasting what a person
said about somebody else.
A new development is people suing the authors of so-called fan
fiction who feel they have been defamed. In one case a person sued
over a work of fiction they thought identified them as having an
affair. Movie star Scarlett Johannson tried to stop the English
translation of a French novel about a man who falls in love with
her lookalike, claiming it exploits her name and image and makes
defamatory claims about her private life.
"It's always a good policy to think twice before you
post anything on social media," said Nathan Luke of Stacks Law
Firm. "Never post anything you wouldn't be happy to see on
the front page of a newspaper – because with the
proliferation of social media that is pretty well what you are
doing." "There are measures under the law for somebody
who thinks they have been defamed to pursue restitution and they
should seek legal advice," Mr Luke said.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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