Social Media Defamation Costs Youngster $105k

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Don’t create a costly social media crisis

That things you say or do on social media have real-life repercussions is undeniable, and with legal precedents now being set in countries around the world you’d better believe ignoring this fact can land you in deep trouble.

Just recently Tony Jaques, our colleague from down under, sent over an article detailing a major social media defamation suit out of Australia. The case, in which a young man baselessly blasted a teacher at his former high school with a series of tweets and Facebook posts, resulted in a $105,000 judgement – no laughing matter for any most organizations, much less an individual barely entering their 20’s.

The Newscastle Herald’s Micaela Whitbourn reports:

In the first Twitter defamation battle in Australia to proceed to a full trial, District Court judge Michael Elkaim ruled that former Orange High School student Andrew Farley should pay compensatory and aggravated damages for making false allegations about music teacher Christine Mickle.

Judge Elkaim said the comments had had a “devastating effect” on the popular teacher, who immediately took sick leave and only returned to work on a limited basis late last year.

“When defamatory publications are made on social media it is common knowledge that they spread,” Judge Elkaim said in an unreported judgment in November.

“They are spread easily by the simple manipulation of mobile phones and computers. Their evil lies in the grapevine effect that stems from the use of this type of communication.”

Defamation is defined as the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation, and, as this case demonstrates, legal communities are fast agreeing that posting to social media is covered under anti-defamation law.

If you want to stay clear of a six-figure (or higher!) settlement of your own, take the same care you would when posting to social media as you would when speaking in public, because, well, that’s exactly what you’re doing. In fact, it’s just plain good crisis management to ensure all members of your organization are properly trained in the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to what they share. After all, even if they’re not posting from the company Twitter account, the things they say or do online could come back to hurt you.

And, of course, for his hundred-thousand dollar mistake Andrew Farley has won himself a nomination for the 2014 Weiner Awards as well! Thank you to everyone who’s submitted candidates so far, and remember to keep those submissions rolling in, either via our Facebook page or by emailing

The BCM Blogging Team

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