DEFAMATION: Bundaberg barrister Bill McMillan discusses the importance of being careful on social media to avoid serious legal action against you. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
DEFAMATION: Bundaberg barrister Bill McMillan discusses the importance of being careful on social media to avoid serious legal action against you. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

How that angry Facebook post could cost you your house

"PAUSE. Think about what you are posting. Would you be prepared to say it to that person's face? If not, I would consider that you should lift the finger off the send button."

That is the message barrister Bill McMillan wants to get out to social media users.

"There are risks involved with anyone who posts on social media," Mr McMillan said. 

He said, although defamation had a very wide definition, it was generally the publication of material that lowered the reputation of a person among his or her peers.

"Defamation has to be published to a person other than the person you are referring to. So if I sent something to you only, it's not defamation. It has to have an audience," he said.

"A good example of this is a lady came to me about some highly defamatory tweets that were being posted about her by another woman. She was called derogatory names, told she should keep her nose out of other people's business and quite obscene and crude expressions were used about her online."

Mr McMillan said there were a range of actions that could take place after a defamatory post was uploaded to Facebook or Twitter.

"They could be asked to give an apology and depending on the terms of the apology, the offended person may take action," he said.

"That could be an action in damages and most people, I would say 98% who send tweets and post on Facebook, don't have defamation insurance. They would be liable and if they had a house and other assets, they could be hit.

"If the defamation is at a very low standard, that is if it is highly defamatory, then it falls into the category of criminal defamation and they could be taken to court and prosecuted."

To avoid posting anything defamatory, Mr McMillan advises to keep all social media activity innocuous.

"It is a tricky field and anyone thinking of committing themselves to other than Sunday school talk on tweets or Facebook is looking for problems," he said.

"People should be very wary, it's a wake up call."


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