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Defamation in a Social World

Can you defame someone on social media? Some notable cases quite clearly demonstrate that those who post in haste will repent at leisure.

Tread carefully

In 2012, writer and TV personality, Maireke Hardy, wrongly identified Joshua Meggitt as the person behind a number of nasty blog posts written about her over a period of five years under the pseudonym ‘James Vincent’.

She named and shamed Meggitt in her own blog, which she tweeted. Meggitt subsequently sued Hardy. The case was settled out of court for an estimated $15,000.

High school scandal

In 2014, high school student Andrew Farley won the dubious honour of being the first person to be successfully sued for a defamatory tweet.

Farley published a number of Facebook posts and tweets about music teacher, Christine Mickle. The posts were in response to Farley’s mistaken belief that Mickle had stolen his father’s job (Farley’s father apparently left his job for health reasons).

Distressed by the posts, Mickle sued Farley for defamation, and was awarded a total of $105,000 in damages. That’s some expensive tweeting.

Farley was devastated by the judgement awarded against him – he didn’t consider that his posts would be anything other than private. Judge Elkaim said:

Where defamatory publications are made on social media, it is common knowledge that they spread. They are spread easily by the simple manipulation of mobile phones and computers. Their evil lies in the grapevine effect that stems from the use of this type of communication.

News not fit to print

Not to be outdone, Fairfax decided to have a crack at former Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

Fairfax published a series of articles rubbishing Hockey, but it was ‘Treasurer for sale’ (a title which was also tweeted) that particularly got Hockey’s goat.

Hockey successfully sued for reputational damage and was awarded $200,000.

Here endeth the lesson.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Kelly is the founder of KHQ Approved, a fixed fee commercial contract review service. Peace of mind from an experienced team for a reasonable price.
 

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