The laws of defamation apply to social media as much as they apply anywhere else:
A FORMER high school student has been ordered to pay $105,000 to a teacher for writing defamatory remarks about her on social media in what is believed to be Australia’s first Twitter defamation case to go to trial.
Former Orange High School student Andrew Farley, 20, made “false allegations” about music teacher Christine Mickle on Twitter and Facebook in 2012, a year after he had left school.
Mr Farley, who had never been taught by Ms Mickle, seemed to bear a grudge against the 58-year-old based on a belief that she had something to do with his father, also a teacher, leaving the school, District Court Judge Michael Elkaim said in his ruling.
“There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate that belief,” Judge Elkaim said. “The effect of the publication on the plaintiff was devastating.’’
Anyone who frequents Twitter (or other social media) on a regular basis would know that false and defamatory assertions are often made about people. In some ways it’s a surprise that it’s taken this long for such a case to result in an award of damages in Australia.
Another twitter defamation case that may well go to trial is that of Liberal pollsters Mark Textor and Lyndon Crosby against former Labor MP Mike Kelly for a tweet Kelly published about push polling. The result will be interesting to see.
When people go on social media to rant, they would be well advised to be careful that they do not open themselves to liability for defamation. A right to rant is not the same as a right to defame.