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Online Defamation

Applied IT (Year 12) - Impacts of Technology (U3)

Christian Bien

Note: The following information is solely for educational purposes and is not intended for use as formal legal advice. Please contact an appropriate legal institution or legal aid for appropriate legal advice.

What is Defamation?

Online defamation is the process of publishing untruths about someone on the internet with the purposes of intentionally causing harm and damage to a person's reputation. Examples of Online Defamation:

  • Someone posts publicly a sexually explicit photo of you without your permission

  • Someone states online that you are a criminal despite not having a criminal record

  • Someone falsely accuses you of harassing them by posting an online social media post

Defamation Act 2005

Action for legal defamation can be taken under the 'Defamation Act 2005' which includes legal action for all types of defamation. Victims have the right to sue perpetrators for compensation for damage to a reputation.

Issues with Defamation in an Online Environment

Online defamation is challenging in a web environment. The anonymity of the internet has allow users to defame others without the perpetuator being acknowledged. Users can post and share defaming material anonymously on social networks, forums and chatrooms. Secure and private messaging services such as Telegram, also make it more difficult to view any material which may be defamatory.

Process to Counteract Online Defamation

Note: The following are general procedures to counteract online defamation and is to be used solely for educational purposes. Please contact an appropriate legal institution or legal aid for appropriate legal advice.

1. Record all evidence of online defamation Recording evidence of online defamation provides legal security in the event legal action is required to take place. Evidence can be used as grounds for legal action and demands for compensation.

2. Block User Victims of online defamation should immediately block the user. However, blocking does remove the ability to record evidence of further online defamation and still allows the user to continue producing defamatory material.

3. Report Content Online defamation victims should report the content to website administrators who should remove the content.

4. Contact Legal Advice Victims can contact legal advice for further information on combating online defamation. Victims have the right to sue, and in some cases criminally charge, perpetrators under the Defamation Act 2005.

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