The average person can compose text at a rate of 19 words per minute. At 19 words per minute the following 22 word Facebook post was most likely composed in under 2 minutes;
‘Separated from _ _ _ _ after 18 years of suffering domestic violence and abuse. Now fighting the system to keep my children safe’.
Based upon the Western Australian Supreme Court's award of $12,500.00 to the Plaintiff (who successfully alleged that this post was untrue and had caused harm to his reputation), the Plaintiff’s former partner appears to be typing at around $6,250.00 per minute or just over $100.00 a second.
This case is not an isolated incident. Social media defamation cases have well and truly reached our shores. In 2013 a 20 year old New South Wales student was ordered to pay $105,000.00 in damages to a teacher at his former high school after a series of tweets he had sent were found to have caused harm to the reputation of the victim.
The message from the Courts in these examples is that due to the extensive reach of social media, the harm caused by these posts can be in a similar range to as if they were published in a newspaper.
Regardless of whether material is published in print media, broadcast on television or posted on social media the same principles of defamation apply. If you intentionally publish information about another person or small business which damages their reputation (and you are unable to prove that the published information is true or was an honest opinion) you can be found liable of defamation.
As for many issues like these the prevention is better than the cure. Once your post is online it is very difficult to stop the spread. Even if you manage to delete the post there is no guarantee that one of your 10,000 Facebook friends or Twitter followers hasn’t taken a screenshot which would allow them to repost your thoughts at any time they choose (while risking a defamation case themselves).
When posting online, it is important to consider the potential harm your post could cause before you hit send. Does the world really need to know the exaggerated, dramatized version of a poor customer service experience? Is a Facebook vent about a former partner or friend worth a 6 figure settlement? If you feel the need to see these thoughts in writing perhaps a journal is a more appropriate forum than social media. This traditional outlet is a far safer option and will allow you to spend your Bitcoins on what you love as opposed to giving them to who you don’t.