It was recently reported that a man in Switzerland was convicted of defamation for ‘liking’ Facebook posts which contained statements accusing another person of (among other things) antisemitism and racism. Whilst this judgment does not have a direct impact on court proceedings here in Australia, it’s a warning sign that an Australian Court may also interpret a Facebook ‘like’ (or similar social media comment) as an endorsement of a defamatory statement, thereby making anyone ‘liking’ a post liable for defamation along with the original ‘poster’.
Social media users should be aware that Courts treat defamation matters extremely seriously and can award large monetary judgments to those found liable, depending on the individual circumstances of each case.
Recently, in its judgment of 25 November 2016 in the matter of Reid v Dukic, the Supreme Court of the ACT awarded judgment in the amount of $180,000 plus interest to a Plaintiff, as damages for nine defamatory Facebook posts. The defamatory posts accused the Plaintiff of (among other things) fraud, habitual dishonesty, incompetence, negligence, gender bias, improper use of power, misappropriation of funds, cronyism and self-interest, all allegations which the Court found ‘baseless’. The Court also considered it relevant that the Defendant’s Facebook profile was ‘public’ and so accessible to anyone.
We anticipate that cases of this nature will become all too common given the popularity of social media posts. Facebook now has a feature which lets you specify certain emotions when ‘liking’ a post, potentially making it easier for a person to prove the effect a certain post has had on their reputation, in addition to being put forward as evidence of a liker’s state of mind.
Given these pitfalls, our standard advice is to repeat what our mothers taught us a long time ago: if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Are you being defamed on social media? Contact Shavin Silva at Adelaide Legal on (08) 8410 9494 for a free telephone discussion.