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July 31, 2016

Naming and Shaming on Facebook

Beware of publishing a post on Facebook or Twitter and other social media platforms, listing the name of a person (or company) that has committed some alleged transgression, to single them out for individual blame and censure.

What does our law say about, e.g., outing sex offenders and paedophiles, in a post?You ‘defame’ someone when you ‘publish’ a ‘defamatory’ statement about another living person. If you ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ a defamatory post on Facebook or Twitter, you could also be equally guilty of defaming the named and shamed person.

“Publish” takes the form of any form of communication, spoken or written, containing an allegation about someone that’s communicated to at least one other person apart from the person named.

“Defamatory” refers to any allegation that would tend to lower that person’s standing in the eyes of “right-thinking people”. 

There are defences to defamation, that protect freedom of speech and serve the public interest. Thus an allegation is protected if it both true and in the public interest. If it can be shown that the allegations of, say, being a sex offender, are true, the named person can’t cry foul.

If there are no defences, the publisher of a defamatory post could be sued for damages and, in certain instances, a court could order that the post be removed.

Think twice before naming and shaming someone on social media. 



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