12 October 2023

Legal Consequences Of Social Media: Defamation, Privacy, And Cyberbullying

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With the influx in social media use comes the probability of a corresponding increase in crimes such as defamation (in this case, digital defamation), infringement of users' privacy, and cyberbullying.
Nigeria Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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With the influx in social media use comes the probability of a corresponding increase in crimes such as defamation (in this case, digital defamation), infringement of users' privacy, and cyberbullying. These nefarious acts can have grave consequences on the victim; mental, psychological, and legal consequences. This article will focus on the legal consequences. What are the legal consequences of committing these nefarious acts? What are the legal remedies available to the victims as well?


Defamation is the making of false or malicious statements which might be written (libel) or verbal (slander) and is capable of causing harm to the victim's reputation.1 If anyone makes a false statement on social media about a person or company that results in damage to the victim's reputation, the victim can sue under an action in tort. To prove that there has been defamation, the victim must establish the following;

  1. A false statement was made;
  2. The statement referred to the victim;
  3. The statement was published i.e. it was seen or heard by someone other than the victim and
  4. That it caused damage to his reputation.

What are the legal remedies available to a victim?

The victim can sue the defamer and claim the following remedies;

  1. Damages which are compensatory in nature.
  2. Injunctive relief which is a court order that stops a party from performing a certain action or requires them to act in a certain way2 It should be noted that victims of digital defamation can demand that the libelous statements be removed as a part of their lawsuit. Winning a defamation case but leaving false statements on the internet can prolong the harm that they cause.3
  3. Apology to the victim.
  4. Also, section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, states that a person who publishes any defamatory matter, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year; and any person who publishes any defamatory matter knowing it to be false, is liable to imprisonment for two years.


Cyberbullying simply put is bullying which occurs online.4 It is the repeated and intentional harassment that causes harm to the targeted individual.5

What are the legal consequences of cyberbullying?

  • Imprisonment and/or fine: Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015 provides a framework for preventing and prosecuting cybercrimes. Section 24(2) of the Act states that 'any person who knowingly or intentionally transmits or causes the transmission of any communication through a computer system or network to bully, threaten or harass another person, where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm or to another person commits an offense and on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term of 10 years and/or a minimum fine of N25,000,000.00 (Twenty-Five Million Naira).

It is also instructive to note that under the Act, aside from section 24(2) stated above, there are other forms of cybercrime that may amount to cyberbullying depending on the circumstances of the case.

  • Protection of the Victim/Prohibition Order: The court in addition to the above may also make an order, which may, for the purpose of protecting the victim or victims of the offense, or any other person mentioned in the order, from further conduct which amounts to harassment; or will cause fear of violence, death or bodily harm; prohibit the defendant from doing anything described/specified in the order. 6


According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Privacy means the state of being alone; the state of being away from public attention. It is also a right recognized under section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN), 1999. An intrusion of privacy is therefore an infringement of one's constitutional right. Cybercriminals can exploit private information to commit identity theft, blackmail, or even physical harm.7 Additionally, third-party applications can gain access to user data, making it available to advertisers and other entities without users' knowledge or consent.8

Instances of invasion of privacy can be seen in the activities of digital money lenders as they are notable for invading the privacy of their customers when they fail to repay the loan as and when due. They do so by sending unsolicited messages to the victim's private contacts. Also, recently, one Okoye Blessing Nwakaego was convicted of cyberstalking amongst others for bullying a popular Nigerian actress, Eniola Badmus on social media.9

What remedies are available in cases of invasion of privacy?

  • Petition Government Agencies: Once you discover a breach of your privacy, you can petition relevant government agencies such as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).
  • File a Fundamental Human Rights Action: As stated above, the right to privacy is guaranteed under section 37 of the CFRN, 1999. Thus, a victim of intrusion of privacy on social media can file a fundamental human rights action.
  • File an Action for Defamation: If the intrusion on privacy on social media has led to defamation of the victim's character, then an action for defamation under the law of torts can be filed. However, it must be noted that the elements of defamation stated above must be established before an action for defamation can be sustained.
  • File a Complaint to Law Enforcement Agents for Criminal Defamation: A victim can also file a petition or complaint with law enforcement agencies like the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) where the intrusion of privacy on social media has led to cybercrimes such as criminal defamation, cyberbullying, cyberstalking, etc. as provided under the Criminal code or criminal law of the state, Cybercrimes(Prevention and Prohibition Act, 2015, etc. 10


1. Defamation accessed September 18, 2023.

2. Elizabeth Olalekan, 'Remedies Available For Victims Of Digital Defamation And Reputation Damage'–defamation/1325452/remedies-available-for-victims-of-digital-defamation-and-reputation-damage accessed September 18, 2023.

3. ibid

4. Ashley Abramson 'Cyberbullying: What is it and how can you stop it?' American Psychological Association accessed September 25, 2023.

5. Australian Human Rights Commission,and%20risk%20to%20their%20wellbeing. Accessed September 25, 2023.

6. Section (24)(3) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015

7. 'Dangers of Social Media & How to Protect Privacy Online',blackmail%2C%20or%20even%20physical%20harm accessed September 18, 2023.

8. ibid

9. accessed September 25, 2023.

10. Muhiz Babatunde Adisa, 'Remedies For Data Privacy Breach By Online Money Lenders' accessed September 18, 2023.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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