Think Before you Post

In a reality where scrolling through social media is as second nature as a morning cup of coffee, some social media users have a tendency to use their social media platform as a running commentary o f their innermost thoughts.

For the most part, this may elicit a collective eye roll from their social media following and nothing more.  However, when things get personal there are some real world legal consequences in Defamation law that can follow from a social media rant.

Whether you’re the jilted ex, the unhappy employee, the outraged consumer or the opinionated social media debater there is a fine line between voicing your opinion and defamation.

What is defamatory?

The publication of material is defamatory if it is likely to cause injury to another’s reputation, causing ordinary and reasonable people to think less of them, opening them up to hate or ridicule or causing others to shun or avoid them.

To be considered a defamatory publication, the material must:

  1. Be published (spoken, written, electronically transmitted or otherwise) to a third party.
  2. Identify the person who is being defamed. Even if the individual is not named specifically, if a reasonable person would take the words to refer to the particular person being defamed, that can be enough to identify the defamed party.
  3. Be Defamatory (i.e. likely to injure the aggrieved reputation)

In our 2016 case of Kelly v Levick [2016] QMC 011, Our client’s ex-husband, the defendant in the matter,  made a post visible to his Facebook friends portraying  our client as among other things  having committed criminal offences.

 His post contained words to the effect of “June turned out to be a thieving, lying, money crazed b****  who screwed me out of nearly 3 million rand”

The Court found it was not a satisfactory defence that the Defendant had intended to send the published material by a private message when making the post.

Although the Facebook post was only found to be read by two people, the intended recipient  in Victoria and one person in South Africa, prior to it’s removal, the publication was made to someone within an Australian jurisdiction (Victoria) and our Queensland client was entitled to bring her action in Queensland  in accordance with the Defamation Act  2005 (QLD).

Damages were awarded to our client in the amount of $10,000.00 (plus interest).

Have you been accused of Defamation?  

It’s not all bad news!

There are defences available when you are facing defamation action, particularly where the statements made are true or substantially true, honest opinion, regarding a public document, or fair report on a matter of public concern.

This is by no means an extensive list and should you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been accused of defamation it is important to get legal advice specific to your situation.

Prevention is better then a solution!

Once something is posted on social media, it’s virtually impossible to erase its trace and its potential real world legal consequences.

So before you turn to social media to rant, STOP and think!

Turn off your phone, step away from your electronic devices and do things the old fashion way. Write the angry letter, read it to yourself only, destroy it and never send it.   It could save you thousands.

If you would like more information about defamation, if you believe you have been defamed or if you are facing a defamation action, please contact us to discuss your situation and options with our experienced defamation litigation lawyers.