SA man wins landmark Facebook case

2013-02-04 10:00
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Pretoria - A Johannesburg man has won a landmark case involving Facebook and an ex-friend who had made slanderous remarks about him on her wall.

Judge Nigel Willis’s judgement last week means that users may in future sue for damages when they are defamed in remarks made on Facebook, reported the Saturday Star.

The people involved in the case were not identified by the newspaper.

The woman had last year written on her wall about the man: “I wonder too what happened to the person who I counted as a best friend for 15 years and how the behaviour is justified.

“Remember I see the broken-hearted faces of your girls every day.

“Should we blame the alcohol, the drugs the church or are they more reasons to not have to take responsibility for the consequences of your own behaviour. But mostly I wonder whether, when you look in the mirror in your drunken testosterone haze, do u still see a man? [sic]”

The man, who is an insurance broker and separated from his wife, asked the court to stop the woman from making the remarks and to make her remove offending posts about him.


The woman against whom the case was made had been such a close friend of the man once that she had been appointed guardian of his three children.

His estranged wife, from whom he was getting divorced, was now living with the ex-friend.

He unfriended the woman on Facebook when his wife left him to go live with her.

The judge said in his judgement that the woman’s post was not in the public interest or benefit.

“She has been unable to justify her posting. The background to the posting, together with the words themselves, indicates that the respondent acted out of malice when she posted the offending comments,” the judge said and added that the man had a right to privacy and that his reputation must be protected.

Judge Willis also said that common law needed to develop to take social media into account.

“ …The law has to take into account changing realities not only technologically but also socially or else it will lose credibility in the eyes of the people. Without credibility, law loses legitimacy.

“If law loses legitimacy, it loses acceptance. If it loses acceptance, it loses obedience. It is imperative that the courts respond appropriately to changing times, acting cautiously and with wisdom.”

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