Internet and Defamation

One of the major problems people have when they are defamed is the fact that the defamation in very many cases ends up on the internet. If a person is defamed in a national newspaper then almost certainly there will be a digital version of that article on the internet. If they are defamed on Facebook or Twitter, the position is even more difficult.

We have a number of cases at the moment involving Facebook where it is proving possible to persuade Facebook to remove defamatory comments from the Irish Facebook site but not if you are looking on Facebook from outside Ireland. There are huge technical problems getting rid of anything from the internet and this is one of the main reasons why I feel such high awards of damages are justified in defamation cases.

This fact was recognised recently in the Australian case of Scierocki and Anor v. Klerck and Others (2) [2015] QSC092 (13/638). The decision in that case was delivered in February.

In that case a man was very seriously defamed in two emails and 8 online postings by a former business associate. In that case a large award of damages was made to the plaintiff – A$260,000. The judge said that the award was high because he wanted to mark the seriousness of the defamation particularly given the fact that he accepted the expert evidence presented to him that it would be difficult and perhaps impossible to permanently remove the defamatory allegations from the internet. The judge made the case that where damages are awarded, he has to try and compensate the plaintiff for the damage to his reputation up to the time of the judgement but also into the future if it is unlikely that the defamatory comments can be removed.

So the moral of the story is – be careful what you say on Facebook!

Kevin Brophy

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