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Social media definitely brings us together, but it can also tear us apart. You need only spend some time on one or two popular social media platforms to see ugly, inappropriate posts, comments and opinions. Failing to choose your words wisely can not only hurt others, it can also put you at risk of being sued for defamation. Want to know more about why you should think twice before posting on social media? Find out more about defamation from your trusted Gold Coast lawyers below.

Defining defamation

Taking the action of damaging a good reputation of someone is defamation. Defamation, according to the Defamation Act (2005) is complex but definable. It’s also used interchangeably with similarly defined terms – slander and libel.

With civil defamation, there’s three specific factors which must be proven on the balance of probabilities for defamation to be established:

  1. Material must be published (which also includes oral communication) to at least one person who isn’t the party being allegedly defamed.
  2. Said publication must be comprehensible, whether it’s oral or written communication, in print, digital channels or otherwise.
  3. The material must be able to identify the individual being defamed either indirectly or directly or hold the capacity to do so.

In terms of criminal defamation, a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment can be issued to anyone who, without lawful excuse, publishes defamatory material of another living being:

  • Knowing the information is false, and
  • With the intent to cause serious harm to the victim.

The implications of defamation

The oral or written material under investigation must be deemed defamatory to the ordinary, reasonable person.
In summary, the material is likely to:

  • Adversely affect the person’s reputation in the eyes and minds of right-thinking members of society
  • Cause the person to be avoided by others, shamed and shunned
  • Damage their professional reputation with the suggestion of lack of skills, qualifications, knowledge, capacity, judgment and efficiency in their trade, business or profession

Did you know there currently sits a limitation period of one year to take civil action over defamation? This can, in some cases, be extended to up to three years under certain provisions.

The role of social media in defamation cases

Naturally, in a free country like Australia – we have flexibility to express how we feel about a certain person or event, to whoever will listen, online and in person. Yet, every time you make your negative thoughts known online and they explicitly or indirectly reference an identifiable person, you put yourself at risk of a defamation case.

It’s not just social media giants and media companies that run the risk of defamation cases, it’s the ordinary Australian who have their own social media accounts too. Personal social media account users are considered ‘publishers’ and therefore can be held responsible for successful defamation rulings within Australia. This is why thinking twice before publishing a potentially defamatory comment or post online. Not only to avoid hurting others, but to protect yourself too.

Have you been implicated in a defamation case in one way or another? Looking for a lawyer who offers personalised legal services, particularly surrounding civil defamation, defamation of character and social media defamation?

Contact your local Gold Coast lawyers, Crest Lawyers today. 

Disclaimer: The content contained in this news post is general in nature and is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice.