Next time you’re commenting on social media you might want to think twice about what you write.

This month a Queensland Court ordered two keyboard warriors to pay a combined $150,000 for 10 defamatory online posts they made against a wedding planner.

The wedding planner was awarded the extensive sum of money for “hurt and humiliation” as comments were proven to be untrue.

MBA Lawyers social media and defamation expert Matt Windle says this ruling has the potential to open the floodgates when it comes to social media smear lawsuits.

“Individuals and businesses need to remember that any posts or comments on social media are in the public forum, despite your privacy settings,” he said.

“It’s easy to make these types of defamatory comments when you think you are protected from behind your computer screen, but the reality is, you’re not.

“This landmark case is a clear warning that your online posts could have serious consequences.”

If you’re a business owner, you are also responsible for comments made on your business page.

The details of the case

The court heard that the posts made by two women claimed that this wedding planner would sabotage a bride’s wedding day and ruined theirs, despite never having engaged her services.

The basis of the case was that the comments made were defamatory and false.

The posts were published repeatedly in a Facebook wedding group between February 2017 and March 2018.

The court was told that the women’s motive for the posts was to help themselves, as one of them planning to open their own wedding business.

What you need to know about defamation laws
Defamation law in Queensland falls under the Defamation Act 2005.

Defamation is defined as the publication of unsubstantiated ‘facts” that negatively impacts the reputation of an individual. The term publication refers to online media, writings, text messages, emails, drawings, speech and even gestures.

A corporation cannot sue for defamation if it employs more than 10 people, nor can a deceased person.

If you are to bring a claim of defamation before the courts, it must be done within one year.

Some defenses to defamation include:

  • Making comments that are factually true so that the aggrieved could not have been harmed
  • The comments were previously published in a public document such as a parliamentary debate, court or tribunal judgement
  • It was honest opinion

If you would like to speak to our defamation and social media expert, please call Matt Windle on (07) 5539 9688.