Social Media and Defamation

Defamation is when a person publishes information about another person, group or business that damages their reputation and encourages others to think less of them.

Anyone can be considered a publisher these days. Publication of defamatory material can take many forms including; blogs, news articles, social media posts, poems, songs, photos, videos, emails, comics/cartoons, drawings, online reviews, radio broadcast or spoken words.

Defamation across social media is a very common issue and anyone posting on these platforms is considered a publisher in the eyes of the law.

Let’s break it down:

What counts as defamation online?⠀

This is when someone uses any online platform to intentionally damage another person’s or *business’ reputation. (*there are limitations for what constitutes defamation of a business).

How can somebody be defamed online?⠀

With tweeting, instagramming, emailing, snap-chatting, facebooking and many other forms of online communication – using any of these platforms allows users to be their own publishers.

If you publish something defamatory by;

  • Emailing

  • Commenting

  • Posting a caption/photo/video/poem/song

  • Re-shared/forwarded a post (even if you weren’t the original author)

You could be held liable for online defamation.

How to avoid defaming someone online⠀

Think before you hit publish. Ask yourself – is this based on fact? It can be hard to uphold a negative opinion in court if there’s no evidence to support it.

When it comes to publishing reviews online (for example, about a restaurant you’ve visited) stick to the facts to base your opinion on.

Always be considerate about things you share online, even if you’re not the original author as you can be held accountable if the material is defamatory.

What to do if you’re on the receiving end of defamation online or accused of it⠀

Engage a lawyer that specialises in defamation and can give you advice specific to your circumstances. If you’re being defamed online, collect evidence of the defamation to compile as much history as possible for your lawyer.

If you’ve been accused of publishing defamatory material, the best thing to do is apologise and remove the offending material. Again, it’s best to seek the advice of a defamation lawyer for your specific situation/circumstances.

Defamation Reporting Forms on Social Media

If defamatory material is published on a social media site, there are steps you can take to remove it and most of the major platforms have advice or reporting forms to do so:

Facebook

Head to this page here.

Instagram

Head to this page here.

X formerly known as Twitter

Head to their legal requests page for more information here.

SnapChat

There is no dedicated defamation reporting form. Head to their ‘report abuse or illegal content’ form here.

TikTok

There is no dedicated defamation reporting form. Head to their ‘report a problem’ page here.

YouTube

Head to this page here.

If you have a defamation issue on social media, sometimes it’s best to call in a lawyer for expert advice and management of the issue. At Litton Legal, we’re experts in defamation law. Contact our friendly team on hello@littonlegal.com.au