What is defamation?

Posting information on social media platforms such a Facebook often gives us a false sense of anonymity... but posters beware, posting certain information on these sites may provide the basis for legal claim being brought against you!

The Vardy/Rooney dispute dominated the headlines back in August, the new age of technology brings forth serious allegations of social media offences.

In this technological age, social media users should be aware of the repercussions of their use of digital content and using platforms such as Instagram to post and make comments which could lead to accusations of defamation, and harassment.

Social media should not be used as a forum to harass or defame others, and this new age will bring an increase in social media offences cases. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  users need to be aware of the ramifications of what they post online, and those who have suffered at the hands of a social media offence, need to be aware that there are protections out there.

In layman’s terms defamation involves writing or saying something about someone that damages that person's reputation.   

One cause of action that may arise from posting information on a social media platform is a defamation of character claim. In order to prove defamation of character, the ‘victim’ has to demonstrate that a person made a statement that was

  1. published,
  2. it caused the victim injury, and
  3. it was false.

The statement made must be either in spoken or written form.  We commonly refer to spoken defamation as “slander” and written defamation as “libel”.  Defamation involving social media posts are considered libel since the statement is published (in a post) often with the victim's name attached, as such the ‘victim’ of the libelous post is identifiable).

Some take the view that Facebook is a private medium to share information, however Facebook is actually considered a public forum by most.  Courts around the word have found that there is no legitimate expectation of privacy on Facebook, even when precautions are taken to make profiles ‘private’. 

All the victim has to show that someone saw the post, therefore to successfully win a defamation case it is not necessary to prove that many people saw the post>  in some circumstances an email sent to one person may give rise to a libel case being brought.

The statement, or post on the social media platform, must be damaging to the individual (victim). The victim will have to show how he or she was damaged from the post, such as being ostracized from group or losing business. 

Truth is a defence to any libel case.  You cannot be found to have been libelous or slanderous if you have simply represented a truthful statement even if the statement damaged that person’s reputation.

Generally, if you re-tweet or re-post a defamatory post you would not be considered to be the publisher or speaker of the original defamatory statement. 


Our Expertise

Walker Rose Solicitors are regularly instructed to represent both clients who are the victims of libelous statements and those who are defending action being brought against those who have made defamatory statements.  

Our advice is always precise, resilient and affordable.

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