A post on social media could cost you dearly

2017-06-07 06:00

SOCIAL media has taken the world by storm and has become the fastest method of conveying information in this day and age.

The most famous forms of social media are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. It is well and good to be able to communicate instantly, but there are various hazards associated with social media and one of the major perils is defamation.

Not every defamatory statement is actionable in a court of law. In order for an individual to successfully defend a defamatory statement they would need to show that the post is true and that the public has a legitimate interest in the post.

The South African law does not require an individual to be the originator of the defamatory content to be held liable. One may be held liable by simply “sharing” a defamatory post. An individual may be liable to the same extent as the originator.

This will occur if that person has knowledge that they have been “tagged” in the originator’s post and does not object to their name being used, and fails to take steps to remove their name from the post and have no association with it.

Employees posting derogatory comments about their employer may be dismissed for such misconduct. Employers are advised to put measures in place and devise rules that deal with the issue of social media. Employers need to be clear in relation to the use of company owned equipment in respect to accessing social media sites.

Service of court documents by use of social media has been authorised by the court in many instances, this occurs when the other party cannot be physically located for service of papers. A substituted service application is brought in the court concerned. The relief that is sought is for the court to allow court documents to be served by way of social media.

In relation to Facebook, the court documents are attached as a file in the recipient’s messenger box.

An apology on the social media channel where a defamatory statement has been made may assist in mitigating the damage to a person’s dignity and reputation.

It would be in your best interest to think carefully before sharing or posting any content on any form of social media.

- Anusha Ganas - associate.

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