DEROGATORY AND DEFAMATORY MATERIAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IT
Many of you will be familiar with this scenario. You’ve come across someone in your life who is just not that into you, whether it be business or personal. Friends of friends are screen shotting defamatory and/or derogatory material from this person’s account making you well aware of their agenda to bring you down. So what can you do about it?
Depending on the scenario, there may be a number of options:
1. In family law matters where there are current proceedings on foot you may be able to seek an order restraining the other party from posting to social media. This however can only be used for the specific person on the other side of your matter and not necessarily for their new partner who is not a party to proceedings. The best you might hope for in relation to them is an order for the other party “to make their best efforts to ensure that person X does not make derogatory or defamatory posts on social media about party A”.
This issue with this option is clear- Firstly, how do you show that party B did not make their best efforts? Secondly, even if they let person X proceed to posting, there are very few options for enforcement, particularly given that there is only really so much control a person can have over what a third party does.
It is important to remember that in most cases this sort of activity will be quite common whilst proceedings are underway and while the “us vs them” mentality is present. Generally speaking, most comments that occur concurrently to family law proceedings will eventually cease when the matter is finalised.
2. Report the post to the social media site (either directly or via someone that is able to see the post on their own account. On some occasions such posts can be taken down by the social media page.
If the post is threatening you directly, you can report this to police.
3. Request to the person directly to remove from social media and make a public apology in relation to the defamatory remarks made. If you are requesting this yourself personally this might be met with ridicule and further posting about you on the other person’s social media. In this instance it may be worth (depending on your situation and the nature of the defamatory comments eg whether they are detrimental to your business or career pursuit etc) seeking the advice of a lawyer. Often a threat to take further action is enough to obtain the retraction and formal apology.
4. Sue for defamation: This is an expensive option. If there is no retraction, no apology and ongoing defamation this would be your last avenue. Defamation is an area of law that is often more complicated than people believe. The matters take time and a substantial amount of money to run. You need to also consider the other person’s capacity to pay any monetary sum awarded by the court in the event of your success. This may be irrelevant to you if you are pursuing the matter “on principle” however for a lot of people this is an extremely relevant consideration.
In all scenarios you should definitely take screenshots of the defamatory material in the event that you do have no other option but to take the matter further.
Lastly, remember to breathe. Don’t engage with the thread. This will only lead to further problems.