Almost every aspect of our lives is documented online, from our work environments to the friends who have over time become enemies. At one point our friend’s secrets or the mistreatment of employees we experienced in the workplace were things we felt a sense of loyalty to guard. After personally experiencing a difficult situation you decide to share the once private details with the public at large in an act of spite or revenge.You now find yourself unemployed or with a pending damages claim against you.
With over one hundred and eighty schools in South Africa integrating IPad devices and tablets into everyday learning and development of our youth, the dangers and effects of social media should be explained to create awareness of the damage it can cause to yourself and others.
The most popular social networks amongst South Africans include Facebook and Twitter, both having millions of registered users constantly “tweeting” or “posting” without pausing to consider the legal ramifications.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa protects the privacy as well as freedom of expression of the individual. There is a fine line between voicing your opinion about another person or Company which you consider as the truth being interpreted by the public as harmful.
Defamation is the wrongful, intentional publication of words or behaviour concerning another person which has the effect of injuring his status, good name or reputation.
In Maisel v Van Naeren 1960 4 SA 836 (C) 838 DE VILLIERS, AJ stated: “The test to be applied in this regard has been formulated in various ways, but in essence it poses the question whether the words were likely to be understood, by the ordinary, reasonable man, in a sense calculated to impair the reputation of the person affected or to lower the esteem in which he was held by his fellow-men.”
There will need to be “publication” of the defamatory statement in order to prove that defamation exists. In African Life Assurance Society Ltd and others v Robinson and Co Ltd and Central News Agency Ltd 1938 NPD 277 295, the court found that defamation will arise only if the defamatory statement or behaviour has been published or disclosed to a third person.
A “tweet” or “”post” will be regarded as publication, and you may be looking at a damages claim. Next time you feel like venting, think twice before sharing your comments with the public.
Contact M Van Heerden Attorneys today with your media legal problems
M VAN HEERDEN ATTORNEYS