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Social Media and Defamation

Social Media and Defamation

Ben Strangman discusses the increasing perils of posting on social media and how it could affect you.

Recently we have noticed an increase in the number of defamation claims that we are dealing with at our firm. The majority of these are for comments made electronically, either on social media or email.

Whether it is the effect of a bottle of red wine late at night or the person being defamed not being present, some of the statements that we have seen being made are completely disrespectful. We often question whether or not those comments would have been made if the person they had made the comments about was sitting directly in front of them. People should understand that defamatory comments that are made on social media are not immune to legal proceedings for defamation. We are seeing the number of people complaining about defamatory comments made about them on social media or other electronic forms, such as email, is steadily increasing.

We are also seeing an increase in the number of defamation complaints in the area of Body Corporate law. Bodies Corporate are always a hotbed for disputes where there are, in some circumstances, hundreds of people attempting to share the same facilities. The laws that govern Bodies Corporate in Queensland are established in part to help facilitate the resolving of tensions between lot owners.

Unfortunately, sometimes those laws are ignored and people take matters into their own hands. Whether it is an agitator in the Body Corporate constantly attacking (sometimes quite personally) volunteer committee members or a runaway committee who attack lot owners for standing up for their rights, the level of vitriol never ceases to surprise us.

Fortunately for those living in Queensland, the Queensland government passed legislation in 2005 that is intended to operate as a guide for dealing with defamatory comments. A very successful part of that legislation is the ability to issue a Defamation Concerns.

Notice. This notice can be issued by a person defamed, in accordance with the Defamation Act, in an attempt to resolve their grievance without having to progress the matter to Court and incur the costs of that Court action.

The effect of a Defamation Concerns Notice is that it provides an opportunity for the person who made the defamatory comments to apologise and make amends. An offer to make amends may include an offer to reimburse any legal costs so far incurred, an apology and/or a publication of a correction of the matter.

If that person fails to make amends, then they are at significant risk. This is because if the matter does proceed to Court and the claim of defamation is successful, then the successful party is entitled to their costs on an indemnity basis. This can substantially increase the award made by the Court against the defaming party.

At OMB Solicitors we have developed a process which allows us to cost effectively meet with our clients, listen to their concerns and issue a Defamation Concerns Notice. In addition to this, our litigation department stands ready to progress any unresolved
matters through to legal proceedings if necessary. If you have been defamed, or have perhaps said something which you need some assistance reconciling from, then OMB Solicitors would be pleased to assist.

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