Social media is becoming more common and more successful in communicating messages but it is not carte blanche when using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In, Tik Tok or others, particularly when it comes to defamation.
This convenient publishing power should not be taken lightly and complaints to lawyers on the rise often resulting in costly results, not only in terms of money but also reputation. Such matters are also attracting more media attention meaning that social media posts and reposts must be taken seriously.
Rather than media outlets which were traditionally the focus of defamatory actions, the rise of social media has seen more individuals being pursued in court for defamation.
Any statements that have the potential to cause damage to a person’s reputation, thus causing them reputational or economic harm, can be deemed as being defamatory. These include social media comments, posts, reposts, photos and even online reviews.
In these matters sharing someone else’s post is no different to posting it yourself. If someone other than the person defamed reads a post, this is treated as being published and the person who posted it can be liable for any defamation that arises from publication.
Sharing a post can also mean extra repercussions for the author every time the post is shared. Every time a post is accessed and downloaded, the law regards it as having been published again.
Even something as simple as checking the ‘Like’ button can bring it to the attention of your ‘friends’ as it is introduced to their newsfeeds despite the fact that may not have seen the original post. The same applies to comments on posts, especially if these reflect the post itself by approving or adopting that post.
The same is the case if you only share a post with close friends as only one person needs to read the post for it to be determined as defamatory. An author, commenter or sharer can also held accountable even after a post is deleted if at least one person saw it.
Encouraging or inviting comments on a post can also be determined as being defamatory. Seeing a defamatory comment on your post and not deleting it when you have the power to do so can also be deemed as defamatory.
As you can see, the risk of defaming someone on social media certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly – it may be very easy to do but it can be a very expensive mistake to make in terms of the awarding of damages and loss of reputation, as well as legal and possible court costs. In severe cases, criminal offences could apply and the end result could be imprisonment.