Online defamation has become commonplace with the use of social media platforms. Whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp or any other social media platform, we have all seen keyboard warriors flooding comment sections with hateful and often false comments.
However, most people don’t realize that these comments can amount to defamation. The defamed individual may commence legal proceedings which often has significant financial consequences on the person who made, and even re-posted the comment.
What is Defamation?
Defamation occurs when a person publishes a false statement about another person which injures that persons reputation or public image.
To successfully bring a defamation case against someone who posted defamatory material via social media, the applicant must satisfy the following:-
- The material must be defamatory;
- The material must identify the applicant; and
- The material must be published to a third party.
Social Media and Defamation
Social media allows messages to be broadcast to large audiences, increasing the chances that defamatory posts have been published to a large number of third parties which can increase the potential harm and potential damages that might have to be paid.
The ability to re-post and re-tweet online comments increases the risk of multiple people being liable for defamation. The original publisher who creates the post or comment is not the only person who can be found liable for defamation. A person who re-posts offensive and false comments can be found just as liable for defamation as the original publisher.
Further, recent reforms and case law have made it clear that it is possible for media companies and page administrators to be held to the same standards as other publishers and become liable for defamation. Media companies and page administrators have been found liable for defamation as they provide a forum for defamatory material to be published and also facilitate the posting of defamatory material as they have the ability to delete such posts and comments once becoming aware that they are defamatory. The continued reforms in this area of law are increasing the liability of media companies and page administrators which is helping to stifle defamation claims arising from posts and comments by the online community.