We have recently been engaged by defendants in relation to social media defamation lawsuits commenced in Singapore.
When posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube or on your personal blog, you need to be careful about what you post, especially if your posts are accessible to the general public and have not been made private or restricted to the people that “follow” or “friend” your account.
The Singapore courts will award damages to those who have been defamed by others on the internet, and it is not a defence to say that you did not use your real name or you did not mean to publish the defamatory words.
Here are 6 things you should know about social media defamation:
- The legal principles relating to Facebook and social media defamation are similar to the rules that relate to normal defamation.
- Defamation is actionable even if you posted a photo, or commented on a photo or post.
- When it comes to internet defamation, the defamation may spread outside Singapore if the readers of the defamatory words are located outside Singapore.
- The time and extent of the publication would affect the amount of damages which the claimant can claim from you.
- Sharing a defamatory post (for example, by “retweeting” a tweet), can also render you liable for defamation.
- It is a good defence to a claim for social media defamation if what you said was true, was fair comment on a matter of public interest or was made as a matter of qualified privilege.
What if I’m accused of social media defamation?
- Stay calm. Winning a defamation case is not easy, especially if not many people saw the defamatory words, and if the defendant engages a good defamation lawyer.
- You should consider deleting the offending post as soon as possible, to minimise your damages.
- Avoid direct communication with the claimant or her lawyer, as you may unwisely implicate yourself or aggravate the amount of damages you need to pay to the claimant.
- If you feel you have a valid defence, then you should consider gathering and consolidating evidence to defend your case, even before you contact a lawyer. Do screen capture, save and time stamp all evidence.
- Useful evidence would include the date and time of the post, whether the post has been set to public, limited or private, the size and number of followers to the post or the claimant’s feed, whether the post was shared by anyone, and whether the claimant or any other person had responded to the defamatory words, and how they responded.
- Consider whether the defamatory words were published only in Singapore or had spread overseas, and if so which jurisdictions the words were published in.
- You should not apologise or admit liability before considering all your legal options, as the apology may allow the claimant to claim unspecified damages against you.
For more information on Defamation, please visit our sister article Defamation in Singapore