Defamation on Social Media – Think Before You Post
Social media thrives on our opinions. The more controversial the topic is, the more people will get involved and post their own opinions. It is easy for us to hammer on the key pad and press send without considering the consequences for our thoughts and posts, as the consequences could end up costing you a lot!
What is Defamation?
Defamation is the act of publishing a defamatory statement which damages the reputation of another person. A “Defamatory statement” means a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.
The Defamation laws are governed by the Defamation Act 2009 in Ireland and also extend to cover Social media in the same terms as Newspaper, TV or Radio publications. It is easier than ever for Social Media users to have an audience.
The Dangers of Defamation on Social Media
Social Media makes it easier than ever for a person to post a comment to an audience of thousands without considering the dynamics of their audience and without understanding that they could be in fact posting defamatory material.
You know the old saying, ‘A penny for your thoughts’, in relation to your social media posts, the reality is a could be ‘thousands of Euros for your thoughts’ if your post is found to be defamatory.
Claims for Compensation for Defamation on Social Media
In the last year in Ireland a judge awarded €30,000.00 to a couple in Letterkenny for defamatory comments posted on Facebook by a neighbour. Similarly a Judge in Monaghan awarded €75,000.00 in damages to a person for the posting of comments by a club member on a Facebook page with damages their reputation.
There is a lack of public awareness as to the potential liability that one has when engaging on social media. The general public believe that liability rest with the platform they are using for allowing the publication of such content on their platforms. However, recent decisions in Irish Courts have rules that the liability rests with the user who published the content and not against the platform that published the content. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. If you are unsure as to the truth of a statement, it is cheaper to err on the side of caution and backspace that comment before you post it!
How to avoid a Defamation action against you on Social Media;
- Think before you post: if the comment is false or likely to cause offence: do not post it
- Think before you re-post: even if someone else post the comment and you like or share or re-tweet, if the original post is false, you could be liable for re-posting defamatory material.
Social media was not invented for people to offend or bully others; it was invented to connect people. Each social media platform gives people to option to report content that they find offensive or distasteful, next time you see a post of this nature click the report button and the social media platform will review the post and possibly delete it – you never know, by you reporting the post, it may prevent another person from being offended by it!