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Personal attack on social media is a legal worry

Facebook and other social media is the same as any kind of publishing when it comes to the law.
Facebook and other social media is the same as any kind of publishing when it comes to the law. Mel McMillan

WE love our social media, but do you know where you stand with the law when it comes to defamation?

The Daily News asked legal expert Mark Pearson, of Griffith University, just what we need to watch out for when Tweeting, Facebooking and commenting online.

Dr Pearson said commenting on social media was the same as any type of publishing and the rules of defamation applied.

He defined defamation as "publishing anything which damages a person's reputation", and while truth was a legal defence you had to be able and willing to prove it in a court of law.

Defamation could include making innuendo or casting dispersions about a person's character or their performance at their job.

He said criticism was okay, but when it became personal or damaging to a person's reputation it crossed the line into the defamatory.

"Playing the issues is safe, but not playing the person," he said.

Dr Pearson said there were a number of precedents in the Australian courts for successful defamation cases relating to social media and online.

And not only is the person who writes the comments liable, but if they were posted on a Facebook page the administrators of that page may find themselves before the courts.

"The comments should be taken down within a reasonable amount of time," he advised anyone responsible for a Facebook page with comments which crossed the line.

With the participation levels in social media on the rise, Dr Pearson said we will see many more social media defamation cases before the courts.

Topics:  defamation, social media



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