Embattled politicians, disgruntled ex-spouses and badly reviewed builders are just some of the Queenslanders who have successfully taken their detractors to court for Facebook defamation in the last 12 months.

In the age of social media, when hitting enter can end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars, it’s more important than ever to know where you stand when it comes to defamation law.

To help you protect yourself from both defaming and being defamed, we’ve put together this blog answering the top questions people ask our defamation hotline.

1. Are private posts or messages classed as defamation?

Yes, they can be!

If you communicate a defamatory message – something that a reasonable member of the community would say is damaging to another’s reputation – you may be liable, regardless of whether that communication is sent to one or ten people.

Most people don’t realise that they may be defaming someone simply by spreading defamatory words or pictures in private posts or even instant messages between them and another person.

2. Can I be sued for something I said on Facebook years ago?

Probably not.

Complainants have one year from the date of publication of the defamatory material to take the matter to court.

The person who is defamed may apply for an extension of this time limit if they can show the Court “that it was not reasonable in the circumstances to commence action in time” but this can’t extend for more than three years from the date of publication.

3. If what I said is true, can I still be sued for defamation?

Truth is a defence. However, it is up to the person who is being sued to prove that their statements were true.

So, while you’re within your rights to publish the truth, you had better have the evidence to back your claims up!

4. Can a bad review of a business be classed as defamation?

Yes! If you’ve spread information that will damage the reputation of the following entities you may be liable:

  • A living person
  • A not-for-profit corporation
  • A corporation which employs fewer than 10 persons and which is not related to another corporation

If you’d like to discuss a potential defamation case with a legal professional, call 3607 3274 today for an obligation-free appointment with one of our lawyers. Or, for more information about defamation law in Queensland check out the Act

Before deciding whether to commence legal action, you must identify your ideal outcome, whether it be compensation, reinstatement of a job or just an acknowledgement of fault. Our lawyers will use this information to determine whether a court could in fact help you achieve your desired outcome.

The next important consideration is whether there is a case to answer for and if you have a cause of action. A cause of action is a legal framework that gives rise to entitlement for you to take action. For example, a negligence claim has 3 separate elements to be satisfied, and if but one element cannot be satisfied your claim will not go ahead.

Finally there must be sufficient evidence to support your claim. Your word against theirs will not be satisfactory so you must ensure that there is enough admissible evidence for the court to assess.
If court is not for you, feel free to ask us about the wealth of alternatives to court.