Twitter victims using law to strike back
After a landmark court ruling, people who feel they are victims of defamatory statements sent via twitter or any other social media can sue and be awarded substantial damages.
In the NSW District Court a male school leaver who sent a series of defamatory tweets and comments on Facebook about a teacher at his former school was ordered to pay $105,000 in damages.
The tweeter, now aged 20, made legal history as it was the first defamation case involving social media that had gone through the courts. Other cases have been settled before they reached judgment. (For more information about this case and other online defamation cases, please see Social media defamation: be cautious when posting or re-posting online comments, reviews and links.)
Joshua Dale, human rights lawyer at Stacks Law Firm, said the case could open the floodgates for people who have been victims of the increasing use of social media to post abusive, aggressive, ugly, and untrue comments.
“Making defamatory comments on social media is just as open to legal action as print media. If you think you have been defamed, it is worth getting legal advice to see whether you can seek restitution,” Dale said.
The young man had been warned that what he was tweeting and posting on Facebook about the teacher was defamatory. He responded by posting (swear words not included) that he could post whatever he liked, and he didn’t care if anyone was hurt by what he said about them.
Judge Michael Elkaim said the posted comments had a “devastating effect” on the teacher and perpetrators know that defamatory publications on social media will spread.
It’s important to remember that anyone who posts something on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia or a blog is subject to the same laws of defamation as a newspaper, TV or radio station.
Businesses must also remove defamatory comments on their websites posted by members of the public or be left open to legal action from the victim. Posting false, misleading or deceptive comments on the internet about a business as well as a person can lead to large payouts for damages.