Be careful of what you ‘like’ on Facebook – Defamation Claims

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Protecting one’s reputation is becoming increasingly important as individuals and businesses are now relying on social media and online presence as a tool for marketing and advertising. The Courts are now more willing than ever to punish those who defame and damage one’s reputation.

Bolton v Stoltenberg [2018] NSWSC 1518

Parties

Mr Conrad Bolton (Plaintiff) – was a former Mayor of the Narrabi Shire Council.

Mr Stephen Stolenberg (First Defendant) – established a facebook page ‘Narri Leaks’, similar to the well known page, WikiLeaks, that was designed predominantly to publish grievances about the Council and the Mayor.

Ms Ann Loder (Second Defendant) – liked a number of posts and posted at least one comment on the alleged defamatory posts

Dispute

It was alleged that a number of the posts were defamatory and conveyed various imputations about the plaintiff including that he:

  • acted improperly in his position
  • was corrupt and dishonest; and
  • deliberately breached the Local Government Act

Outcome

Justice Payne found both the Defendants liable for defamation and the Plaintiff was awarded a total sum of $110,000.00

Looking Ahead

In social media platforms like facebook, Instagram etc. liking a post can bring the post to your newsfeed, making it accessible and visible to your friends, in circumstances where they may not have seen the original post when published. As a result you may have caused more harm to the person being defamed.

Commenting on posts can lead to similar if not dire consequences, particularly if your comments are seen as ‘adopting’ or ‘endorsing’ the original post.

Failure to delete defamatory comments posted by others on your posts can also constitute defamation.

Feel free to contact our lawyers for more advice. Remember you only have one year from publication to commence legal proceedings for defamation.