With the rise in the use of the internet, social media has become the strongest platform to share news and opinions quickly and effectively. Because of the anonymous nature of the internet, many people believe that anything published online, like on social media, can avoid legal consequences, no matter how disrespectful the content may be. However, it is not the reality.
You should know that the internet is not out of this world, and if something like social media defamation occurs to hurt someone’s reputation online, legal liabilities will automatically arise. This blog discusses how defamation laws apply to social media in Australia.
What Is Defamation?
Defamation usually comes in two types – libel and slander. While libel is a written statement, slander is made verbally, with both aiming at damaging the reputation of a particular entity.
If a person feels to be defamed, they must prove that the statement made against them is false and the defendant has made it intentionally or without judging the tone. In Australia, rules related to Defamation Law are set by the Defamation Act 2005.
Some Important Information To Show The Legal Impact On Social Defamation
A significant number of people are not aware of the consequences associated with posting something on social media. Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular social media platforms. But at the same time, they are not safe places to post every opinion of yours. Here we share some crucial information to show how posting a defaming statement can lead to serious legal risks.
- In a recent social media defamation case, the person who has made the damaging statement had to pay a considerable amount as damages for his Twitter post.
- Between 2013 and 2017, courts in Australia have handled four defamation cases related to Tweets and 16 defamation cases related to Facebook.
- In 2013, a former student of a New South Wales music teacher had posted defamatory comments against the teacher on Twitter. As a result, the student had to pay the teacher compensation of $105000.
- In March 2020, another incident occurred that involved hefty penalties. For defaming comments made on a Facebook page, the Supreme Court awarded the defamed party a staggering $110000.
From these numbers, you can understand how risky it can be to post something disrespectful on your social media timeline, despite the virtual nature of the internet. You should remember that these online platforms are also public domains, and many people can see them.
How Does Defamation Law Apply To Social Media In Australia?
There is no separate defamation law for social media in Australia. Though defamation issues involving social networking sites are comparatively new, the same laws are applicable.
In general, social media defamation occurs when someone writes or posts any photograph on their social media profile intentionally or non-intentionally, which hurts another person or organization’s position.
However, suppose someone is found to share a defaming post on Facebook or retweet on Twitter. In that case, also, they will be held liable for defamation. Note that it will apply even if they did not create the material themselves.
What Happens If Someone Sues You For Defamation?
If you are sued for defamation, you should not waste more time and seek immediate legal help. Court proceedings can be stressful and time-consuming, and you will be happy to avoid that. In that case, you can resolve the matter by promising to delete the offending statement and expressing an apology.
- However, you can offer several defence options. For example, a statement will not be considered defamatory if it is found to be accurate or expressed honestly as an opinion.
- But, applying these defences is not that easy, so it will be better to consult a qualified social media defamation lawyer. They can help you determine if your comments fall into the categories mentioned above.
How Can You Avoid Risks?
Before you post any photographs or writings on social media, think twice and consider the following factors.
- In the virtual world, information spreads faster. With only one click, news can be circulated among a large group of people within a few minutes. A post on Facebook or a tweet posted on Twitter can be seen by anyone worldwide.
- Public comments you make can be challenging to retract. If you write something controversial or offending, people will start sharing them and taking screenshots. Thus, even if you delete them later, no one can prevent them from reaching a larger audience.
- Comments or statements that are factually true can save you from facing serious legal consequences. But before you post, you must check whether they are accurate and truthful, and you have solid evidence in support of that. If you have doubts, do not post.
- There is a fundamental difference between an opinion and a defamatory statement. Sharing an opinion reflects your own beliefs and thoughts while giving a statement means you are validating something. The tone and language of these two things are different. So, if you want to post an opinion, you should use opinion-based language like, ‘my personal opinion is that…’, ‘I think that…, etc. In your opinion also, you should check whether you have proper evidence behind it.
- You can assume that you are an editor of a daily newspaper because you will be held liable if you defame some person or business.
How Can Defamation Lawyer In Perth Help?
If you are accused of making a defamatory statement, defamation lawyers in Perth are the persons who can offer you the best help in the following ways.
- They can provide you with guidance through the entire legal procedure and advise you on what steps you should take.
- They will try their best to prevent the case from reaching court.
- If it reaches court, they can represent you during the court proceedings.
There are several lawyers’ firms in Perth, where you can send your enquiry about their defamation services. Make sure you get in touch with the best firms that offer targeted assistance.