Lawyer Warns of Online Defamation Risk
The right to Freedom of Speech is not absolute.
Attorney at Law David Brandt emphasized this statement in reference to individuals who proceed to exercise this right without some level of responsibility.
Mr. Brandt’s comments come on the heels of discussion over the law of defamation and how it should be interpreted.
As he explains, the law protects a person’s reputation in the community so that their character is not disparaged in the eyes of right thinking members of society.
Defamation in the written form is referred to as Libel and in the spoken form as Slander.
Mr. Brandt says persons who fall victim to harmful and malicious statements made against them have a right to seek recourse.
When asked to address defamation on social media, Mr. Brandt made reference to a landmark case in Trinidad where a woman was recently held liable for defaming a family in a series of posts on Facebook.
According to the Article posted in The Trinidad Guardian, the Judge ruled in the family’s favour after they were accused of sexual abuse and incest by a neighbor.
Given that the local laws of Trinidad only contemplate libel as printed or written words on traditional formats, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad considered social media cases in Commonwealth jurisdictions to inform his ruling.
The Judge said far too often social media is used as a forum to engage in irresponsible and cruel discourse.
The court therefore concluded that postings and information placed on Social Media Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Viber and Whatsapp has to be viewed as publications and the common law test in relation to libel will apply to the same.
Stating that many users had the misguided perception that posts of their accounts were private, Seepersad said that individuals do not have privacy protection once posts are uploaded.
He noted that social media users would be held to the same standard as traditional media practitioners.