property development lawyers melbourne

Defamation on Social Media
A guide

Did someone write a harmful post or comment about you on social media?

If you have been defamed on social media, you can do something about it.

A lawyer can help you identify the person who made the comment, and seek compensation from the poster and in some cases the platform and its moderators.

Our principal lawyer, Adam Zuchowski, successfully prosecuted recently. This high-profile case involved a property developer who was accused of bribery and racially vilified in a Facebook group as reported in The Age:

A local councillor has been ordered to pay a Melbourne property developer $205,000 in damages after a court held him liable for the defamatory comments of third parties on a community Facebook page he administered.

In another example, Google was held liable for posts made on the YouTube platform according to the Guardian:

Google has been ordered to pay former New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro more than $700,000 over a series of “racist” and “abusive” videos published on YouTube channel Friendlyjordies.

 

Download your Guide to Defamation on Social Media

What is defamation?

Harmful Statement

Information about you was communicated to a third person that made that person think less of you

Serious Harm

The information caused or could cause serious harm to your reputation or your business

Identification

The statement must be about you or likely to assumed by other people to be about you

We include a checklist on when it’s not defamation in our free ebook.

Why you need to act quickly

Defamation law in Australia is complex, and constantly evolving along with social media. It’s also important to know whether to pursue a claim in a particular state or in federal court.

There is a one-year limitation period for defamation, so it’s important to act fast.

The Negotiation Process

Most civil matters either never make it to court or stop midway through court proceedings because the lawyers negotiate a settlement.

Peter Dutton’s defamation case against Shane Bazzi has come to an end, with the Liberal leader dropping his attempted high court appeal and the refugee activist ceasing a bid for costs. Bazzi’s lawyers, O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors, revealed the pair had reached a resolution with final orders made by the full federal court on Monday, according to The Guardian.

The Guardian reports: Mr. Shanks’s channel, FriendlyJordies, which has 600,000 subscribers, is known for its comedy and political commentary.The case was settled out of court this month, according to local news reports. Mr. Shanks apologised to Mr. Barilaro, paid $100,000 in court costs and edited the two videos.

We summarise the negotiation process in our ebook.

How much does a defamation action cost?

Legal action and court fees are expensive but:

  1. You may qualify for a no-win-no-fee deal (see our eBook)
  2. If a settlement is reached, the offending party may contribute to your legal costs 
  3. If the court awards you damages, it will normally award you reasonable costs

 But the costs are small compared to the award you can get and the importance of protecting your reputation.

ABC reports: Geoffrey Rush will be awarded nearly $2.9 million after winning his defamation case against The Daily Telegraph newspaper, a court has heard. The Oscar-winner was last month awarded $850,000 in general and aggravated damages after winning the case against the Daily Telegraph’s publisher Nationwide News, over stories alleging he behaved inappropriately towards his colleague Eryn Jean Norvill. The additional award includes more than $1 million for past economic loss, $919,678 in future economic loss and $42,000 in interest. It is the highest defamation payout awarded in Australia to a single person.

Alan Jones took on a wealthy family from his native Toowoomba, alleging they were responsible for the deaths of 12 people. He lost. The influential Sydney broadcaster, his radio station 2GB and Brisbane’s 4BC have been hit with a record defamation payout of $3.7 million, according to Nine News.

Are you facing a defamation claim?

There are several defences provided for in defamation legislation, for example:

  1. The information is accurate.
  2. It is in the public interest for this information to be known.
  3. It is protected by absolute privilege.
  4. It is protected by qualified privilege.
  5. The person was interested in the subject or had an apparent interest in the subject.
  6. The information was given to that person to provide information on the subject.
  7. The conduct was reasonable in the circumstances.
  8. The information is published in public documents.
  9. The information is a fair report of proceedings of public concern.
  10. The information is part of a scientific or academic peer review.
  11. The information is the person’s honest opinion and is offered as such. But the opinion should also be in the public interest and based on proper material.
  12. It’s innocently spread. For example, the person who shared the post was instructed to do so by a manager or had no idea it was defamatory.

Adam Zuchowski, a principal at SLK Lawyers, is a highly-skilled and experienced lawyer with a proven track record of success. He has worked in the corporate field, in property development and is an experienced conveyancer. More importantly, Adam is SLK’s expert in defamation cases and advises both individuals and corporations.