Social Media has fast become the most effective and convenient way for people to interact with each other. In today’s society many people use social media for everything from advertising their businesses to building their own personal brand or to just share life’s special moments. They are indeed platforms of expression for the user to share their views and opinions on everything that surrounds that person’s life from social issues, to politics, to religion etc. This is where the problem of defamation arises on these platforms. It is important to realize that many people may think that it is completely acceptable to share their exact views on a situation without taking any cognizance of how those views could be interpreted by other people.
However, we must always try to remember that although we have a right to freedom of speech as stated in the Constitution, we also have a corresponding duty to ensure that our comments do not defame the opinions and views of other people. Due to this, defamation on social media has become a much discussed topic in the last couple of years due to people posting controversial comments on social media, as with the Penny Sparrow case a few years ago, just to name one.
There is also the growing problem of cyber bullying on social media which is fast becoming an epidemic amongst children as they are unable to get away from bullies as they are not just bullied at school but at home as well via social media platforms.
On social media platforms we must always be aware that if we share/like something that is racist or defamatory in nature, or if we send videos or pictures on WhatsApp groups, both the person sharing the defamatory or racist statement and the people associated to that person can be held liable if no reasonable effort was made to prevent the spreading of such defamatory or racist statements. This means that WhatsApp group administrators may be held liable for anything that fellow group members post on the group.
Unfortunately, there are always going to be those among us who think it ok to bring other people down due to their differences. However, there is a remedy to these sorts of situations. If you or anybody you know has been a victim of defamation via social media please don’t hesitate to contact an attorney. An attorney should be able to apply to the courts for an interdict to have the defamatory or racist statements removed from the internet and seek the appropriate relief for the damages suffered to your reputation due to any defamatory statements directed at you.
Article contributed by Justin Ferreira of Tuckers Inc.