3 April 2019
In this age of social media interaction and massive online existence, lots of things are said and posted on daily basis that it is practically difficult to draw a distinction between what is offensive or not, what is morally acceptable or not, and what crosses the societal code of tolerance.
As with every other topical issue, the law assumes a definite posture which almost always stands in contrast with what is generally considered as the popular or usual opinion. Thus, whilst the everyday blogger or online enthusiast sees an online post or comment as a ‘funny skit’ or some harmless jab or even a simple verbal attack on a public figure, the law usually views those scenarios differently and fixes a certain degree of responsibility on the maker and the effect it will have on the target when read by others. This is the bane of the 21st century internet usage and its rippling implications.
So just before you post or repost a seeming sensitive material, you may need to double-check that no one is being defamed. No doubt, certain elements must co-exist for online defamation to occur, hence the need to understand where the law stands on the issue.
Generally, defamation is the act of injuring a person’s character, fame or reputation by false and malicious statements. Defamation is the general term that is commonly categorized as either libel and slander. Libel is a written defamation while slander is verbal defamation.
It falls under the Law of Tort and a broader legal definition of the concept refers to false statements about a person communicated as fact to one or more other persons by an individual or entity (such as a person, newspaper, magazine or political organization), which causes damage and does harm to the target’s reputation and/or standing in the community. The general harm caused by defamation is identified as ridicule, shame, hate, scorn, belittlement or being held in contempt by others, and which lowers him/her in esteem of a reasonably prudent person, due to the communication of the false statement.