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They can say that again! Social media, defamation and you.

We all know that we are responsible for what we say on social media and we should always think before we post. But did you know that you could also be responsible for the comments made about someone that other users subsequently publish in response to your post?

The feedback you receive can sometimes go well beyond a simple “like” to include written comments by other platform users. This is considered bilateral communication in that you are receiving feedback on your post via the comments of others – even if you might not have said it in quite the same way. You should carefully and actively monitor any comments, particularly when they convey strong opinions about someone else.

The comments your post generates are an indication of how some readers have comprehended the content and intention of your message. Taken together, they may negatively impact on the reputation of the person who is, or has become, the subject of the post.

The District Court of South Australia recently found an individual responsible, not only for the defamatory contents of his own Facebook post, but also for the defamatory comments other Facebook users attached to the original post.

The subject of the commentary was awarded $100,000 in damages.

The original post was effectively providing a forum for others to publish comments.  By failing to remove those that were inappropriate, the individual hosting the commentary was found to be liable for the defamatory comments of others as well as their own.

This judgment places the responsibility firmly on social media users not only for the contents of their own posts, but also for monitoring interactions with their posts and removing inappropriate remarks.

Being polite and respectful is always a good place to start when posting online – you can read our basic rules of social media etiquette in our previous post on keeping your personal profile professional. If others post material that is defamatory or violates the rights of others in response to your post, it is also your responsibility to remove it.

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