Social Media and Defamation: A Lawyer’s Role

DefamationSocial Media’s undeniable saturation and hold on daily life, the pressure of being abreast of a never-ending news cycle, and the desire of Social Media users to publish their opinions and thoughts is increasingly reflected in our courts. None is more noticeable than the rise of defamation cases resulting from online behaviour.

The growth of defamation-type claims has raised concern that cases like these could start to become a burden upon the legal system in the near future. A culture of expressing opinion without regard for reach or influence poses a real danger, particularly when that message can be further distributed by third parties sharing the content, i.e.: re-tweeting a defamatory message, risking the content going viral.

Many lawyers and academics now argue that this fear is not supported. Lawyers have an important role to play, both in educating the client on their best course of action – and should legal action be pursued – in educating judges, oft unfamiliar with Social Media, throughout the proceedings.

Defamation LawA legal system that has developed inhibitive defences to defamation claims, and legal costs that outweigh potential compensation were cited as key boundaries to pursuing defamation cases for content published online. Rather, it is recommended to seek a public apology from the offending party, or to otherwise approach the platform upon which it was published to have the defamatory content deleted.

The recent admission of former High Court Judge Dyson Heydon that he is incapable of using email highlights the generational disparity within the legal system. Lawyers play an important role in clearly communicating the individual characteristics, uses and reach of the many social media platforms in broadcasting potentially defamatory messages.

Le Brun & Associates have four offices throughout Melbourne, offering a range of in-house legal services, including handling Defamation cases. To seek assistance with a legal matter, we encourage you to contact us to discuss your needs.