The power of social media is undeniable. With a single post, tweet, or share, information can travel faster than ever before, reaching audiences far and wide. However, this incredible power comes with significant responsibility, particularly in the context of Australian defamation law.
Australia’s legal landscape has been rapidly evolving to keep pace with the explosive growth of social media. As platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram become integral to our daily communication, they also become fertile grounds for potential defamation. The stakes are high – a careless post can not only damage reputations but also lead to complex legal battles.
Dan: The power of social media is undeniable with a single post, tweet, or share, information can travel faster than ever before, reaching audiences far and wide.
However, this incredible power comes with significant responsibility, particularly in the context of Australian defamation law. Australia’s legal landscape has been rapidly evolving to keep pace with the explosive growth of social media.
As platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram become integral to our daily communication, they also become fertile grounds for potential defamation. The stakes are high, a careless post can not only damage reputations, but also lead to complex legal battles.
Now, to discuss the intersection of defamation and social media. I’m talking today with Shelley Foot, a lawyer from PD law. Shelley, at the outset, what is defamation and how does it extend to social media?
Shelley: So, the key takeaway from this recent high court case is that if you own a blog, a chat, a Facebook page, a business page, or a community chat, something along those lines that you ensure you are frequently monitoring the page.
If it’s not, you have someone else doing it, and that if there’s any defamatory or potentially defamatory comments or replies or posts that these are taken down as soon as possible.
Dan: Practically speaking, what actually constitutes a defamatory comment or publication?
Shelley: The Defamation Act, which is the governing legislation here in Queensland, doesn’t actually define what constitutes serious harm. The courts will look at the actual facts of the circumstances to determine the impact on the defamed party.
It is up the defamed party to prove that either they have suffered serious reputational harm or that they are likely to because of the publication.
Dan: What if the person posting or publishing the material does not intend to cause reputational harm?
Shelley: Well, Dan, in short, the answer to this is no. Basically, the intention of the publisher and the actual meaning of the material does not matter. There doesn’t need to be a link between the two, the courts use an objective test.
This means that it’s not relevant whether the person who published the material meant to cause the reputational harm or if they didn’t even know the party that they were posting about. The courts are not interested in this. If it has or is likely to cause serious harm to reputational damage, then this element is satisfied by the court.
So there’s a strong distinction between reputational harm and hurt to feelings. So you can’t be claiming that the post hurt your feelings, a personal hurt is not evidence harm to reputation, and the court’s position on this is because harm depends on a combination of inherent tendency of the words and their actual impact on those they were communicated to.
This isn’t a defence, you can’t go to the court and say, Oh, I didn’t mean it this way. It’s how the post is construed by the reader and the actual harm it has caused to the defamed party.
Dan: Now, I suppose the big question is, what remedies are available for somebody who has actually suffered defamation?
Shelley: So, Dan, I guess the main things for people to consider is that if a defamation action is brought against you, that you take steps to mitigate and resolve the dispute amicably. So offer an apology, where appropriate, make an offer to compensate the part if you are in the wrong, and then if worst case scenario, it does escalate to court.
The court will look towards your behaviour and see that you’ve been acting reasonably and taken steps to mitigate the dispute. So that’s really important and it can really, really help you in the long run.
Dan: Shelley, if anyone has questions around defamation, generally, they can reach out to you and the team at PD Law.
Shelley: Thanks, Dan and yes, of course, anyone listening at home has any questions or they want some more clarification on anything that we’ve spoken about today, just give us a buzz, we’re happy to have a chat with you.
We offer 15 minutes free initial consults, so don’t be afraid to give us a call. We’re happy to have a chat about any questions or queries you guys have. All right, thanks Dan.
Dan: That was Shelley Foot, a lawyer from PD Law, and you can contact Shelley and the team at PD Law at www.pdlaw.com.au.
Disclaimer: This podcast has been transcribed using AI. There may be errors that were lost in the translation.