Facebook Social Media Policy

How to handle social media defamation

Where defamatory material has been published about you on social media, there are three important steps you can immediately take to properly protect your interests. While in the heat of the moment some of these steps can be overlooked, ensuring you follow the points below will better enable you to hold the author of the material accountable.

“The anonymity, instantaneousness and wide-ranging reach of the Internet and social media make it a dangerous tool in the hands of persons who see themselves as caped crusaders or whistleblowers, or alternatively want to humiliate or “troll” other members of the community for the purpose of gratifying their own wishes or fears or for the purpose of gaining attention.” – Rothe v Scott (No. 4) [2016] NSWDC 160

Take a copy of the material

Defamatory material, by its very nature, has the capacity to cause significant reputational damage even if only available online for a short period of time. But what happens if the material is deleted? The damage has been done, however the evidence is gone. While it may be possible to obtain a historic or ‘cached’ version of the material, it is a good idea to save or print a copy just in case. You should also take a copy of any updated or edited versions of the material.

Take a copy of any engagements that may cause the material to be republished or shared with other users

Similarly, you should take a copy of any republications of the material and, where possible, obtain evidence of how widely the material has been broadcast – commonly referred to as ‘reach’. For example, in the case of a YouTube video, how many times has it been viewed? In the case of a Facebook post, how many times has it been shared or ‘Liked’?

Attempt to have the material removed

If you know the author (and contacting them isn’t likely to further inflame the situation and/or cause them to publish more defamatory material), contact them and ask them to remove the material.

If they are unwilling to do so, contact the site on which the material is published and report the content. While in our experience it is usually quite difficult to have large social media organisations remove defamatory content, they may do so where the material is, on the face of it, obviously defamatory.

If you are not successful in having the material removed, or at any stage require advice on your specific circumstances, please don’t hesitate to contact us or call on 1800 994 279.

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