Creevey Russell Lawyers principal Perry Russell.
Creevey Russell Lawyers principal Perry Russell. Kevin Farmer

RSL lifetime ban sparks online defamation warning

IT IS hard to look at a social media website these days without a photograph of restaurant food popping into the news feed.

For some, going out to dinner goes hand-in-hand with posting a photograph and review, in under 140 characters, on the meal they have just consumed.

But for Oakey woman Mellissa Grant that practice turned sour after she copped a lifetime ban from her local RSL for posting unfavourable comments about the food served to her on Facebook.

Her story was featured in yesterday's Chronicle.

Some reader sympathised with Ms Grant's actions: "The RSL could have said thank you to her for bringing to their attention the dodgy vegies. Instead they take the easy way out by banning her. Seems a bit harsh," wrote one reader online.

However, some sided with the RSL's reasoning: "If the food was as bad as you claim you had the opportunity to complain, hence bring the issue to management's attention. You chose to post a photo on social media with a not so professional comment. Now you complain about the consequences?"

The phrases "defamatory", "slander" and "freedom of speech" have also been used in online the debate.

In terms of providing comment about a restaurant's food or performance, there is no difference, legally, between a newspaper review or a remark on Facebook, according to Perry Russell from Creevey Russell Lawyers in Toowoomba.

"The law of defamation does not discriminate as to where something defamatory is published. If what is published is defamatory it is actionable," Mr Russell said. "Everyone should be careful not to publish anything that is defamatory on social media site. Not only is it a permanent record but could form the basis of defamation proceedings.

Mellissa Grant was banned from the Oakey RSL after posting negative comments about the venue on Facebook.
Mellissa Grant was banned from the Oakey RSL after posting negative comments about the venue on Facebook.

"There are a number of defences to an action for defamation, including the defence of fair comment.

"The High Court of Australia recently found a restaurant review defamatory as it went further than fair comment. It really is a matter of degree and looking at it from a case by case basis.

"Negative comments about a business or restaurant are not necessarily defamatory comments. If the comments are justifiable and supported by evidence then they may not be defamatory."

By definition

  •  Defamation: n. the wrong of injuring another's reputation without good reason or justification; calumny; slander or libel.
  •  Slander: n. defamation. A malicious, false and defamatory statement or report.
  •  Calumny: a false and malicious statement designed to injure someone's reputation.

- Macquarie Australia's National Dictionary

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