The consequences of social media, Facebook, Twitter

A QUARTER of the world’s population use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter but, as people spend more time publishing their thoughts online, an increase in the number of people being sued for defamation has ensued.

Once considered uncommon in law circles, defamation cases have become more frequent as people post comments, both good and bad, on social media platforms.

According to University of Notre Dame law lecturer Jacques Duvenhage, social media has become a growing part of daily life.

“With a click of a button, news and information can spread rapidly through social media posts and reposts, not just amongst friends but also globally,” he said.

“This is causing an influx of defamation cases and numerous law firms have stated that they have received more defamation cases regarding social media in the past couple of years.”

Mr Duvenhage said a 2013 case in the NSW district court showed how social media was the catalyst for a lawsuit after a high school teacher received $105,000 in damages when it was found a former student made false allegations about her on Facebook and Twitter.

It was the first social media defamation case in Australia to be heard at a full trial.

“The danger with social media comes when people display their emotions on platforms which could reach any audience across the globe before realising the severe consequences such a post might have,” Mr Duvenhage said.

“People need to think carefully and be unambiguous when they post on social media and they should stay calm and not post when they are in an emotional state.

“It is important for people to clarify whether the post is only an opinion or a statement of fact and the person posting the negative or defamatory comments should be willing to apologise for the inconvenience they have caused.

“Communities should be made aware of the severe implications which social media can bring about.”

For the full interview with Jacques Duvenhage visit www.communitynews.com.au/news/Defamation-an-issue-for-social-media-users/7679068