A high school music teacher at Orange High School in regional NSW has made legal history after a former student was ordered to pay $105,000.00 in damages for defaming her on Twitter and Facebook.
Defamation is defined as any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation or decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held, or that induces disparaging or hostile opinions or feelings against a person. Defamation claims in NSW are governed by the Defamation Act, 2005.
In the first Twitter defamation battle in Australia to proceed to a District Court trial, Judge Elkaim found that the devastating effect of the comments warranted both compensatory damages ($85,000) and aggravated damages ($20,000). The Judge held that the harm caused by comments on social media stems from its ability to reach a large audience in a matter of minutes, stating that defamatory comments “are spread easily by the simple manipulation of mobile phones and computers. Their evil lies in the grapevine effect that stems from the use of this type of communication”.
Media law expert and Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Law School, David Rolph, believes that “this case reinforces that even private individuals are subject to defamation law on social media and should be careful about what they say”.
With recent changes to workplace laws and occupational health and safety laws, people can also find themselves being sued for bullying in the workplace as a result of the inappropriate use of social media.
For more information on your legal rights in relation to a defamation action, bullying, breaches of privacy and even inappropriate use of intellectual property on social media, contact Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699 to speak to an experienced Solicitor today.