Facebook leads to rise in defamation inquiries

FACEBOOK users are driving an increase in social media defamation inquiries to Australia's leading consumer law firm, new figures show.

Almost half (48%) of defamation inquiries received by Slater and Gordon in the last financial year were about material posted on social media. 43% of them related to Facebook posts.

Slater and Gordon defamation lawyer Jeremy Zimet said social media was changing the landscape of defamation in Australia.

"The internet has created a new class of publishers - ordinary, everyday people who are posting comments about each other on public forums," Mr Zimet said.

"As a result, we are seeing more defamatory material being published on social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, and a new wave of social media defamation cases arising," he said.

The top four social media defamation inquiries at Slater and Gordon are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • General internet

Mr Zimet said Slater and Gordon's recent social media defamation court cases included a person who was accused of serious criminal offences on Facebook and a person who was allegedly defamed on an internet blog.

He said recent court decisions had confirmed that defamation does extend to social media and, when proven, courts would award damages.

"Last year a NSW teenager was ordered to pay his former teacher $105,000 for defaming her on Twitter, and this year, in WA, a woman had to pay her ex-husband $12,500 after she posted damaging allegations against him on Facebook," he said.

"I expect that as a result of these types of cases, we will continue to receive more inquiries.

"Not all social media defamation inquiries we receive will result in defamation proceedings being issued, as defamation is a complex area of law.

"In some cases, taking down a defamatory post and issuing an apology may be enough to prevent a person from taking legal action."

Mr Zimet said anyone who believed they had been defamed on social media should seek legal advice to establish whether they had a potential claim.

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