If you use social media, you might want to read this.
How much damage can you do in 140 characters? A lot, it turns out.
According to the NSW District Court, about $105,000. That’s $750 per character, if you use all 140 of them. In an Australian first, a NSW school teacher has just been awarded $105,000 in damages for defamation for comments published about her on Twitter.
The award included $85,000 in compensatory damages. The maximum available under defamation legislation is around $350,000. On top of that was a further $20,000 in aggravated damages; largely on account of the defendant offering an unreserved apology, then defending the case and arguing a truth defence for comments that were entirely unsubstantiated.
Social media users, take note. Yes, defamation laws apply on social media. Yes, you can get sued. And yes, you can have to pay damages and legal costs if you lose. It’s not all bad news though. You’ll have a complete defence if the comments are true or reflect your honest opinion, based on true facts. You might have other defences too, depending on the circumstances.
Businesses hosting online discussions can also be liable for users’ defamatory comments if they don’t remove material after receiving a legitimate complaint. Six figure liability for Joe Sixpack’s spray is sub- optimal. If you don’t have a notice and takedown procedure, get one.