The little tweets that cost $105,000 for defamation
4 September 2014
Article by Delvene Michael
Coleman Greig Lawyers
In a landmark decision, and the first of its kind in Australia, the New South Wales District Court has ordered a former student of Orange High School to pay $105,000 to a teacher for defamatory tweets.
In the case of Mickle v Farley, Ms Mickle sued the former student for defamation because of a tirade of comments he posted on Twitter (and Facebook) about her. The former student seemed to believe that Ms Mickle had something to do with his father leaving his job as head of music at the school – beliefs that were unsubstantiated by evidence.
Although the tweets and posts were removed within a couple of weeks and an apology made by the former student, the Judge awarded Ms Mickle $105,000 for the effect it had on her life. Ms Mickle went on sick leave shortly after the comments were made and could only return to work on a limited basis.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this doesn’t apply to you. If you have any type of online presence via social media, whether as an individual or a business, then take note. The effects that defamatory comments may have can be devastating. Even if deleted within minutes, chances are that numerous people have already seen it and may have even shared, retweeted or saved the comment causing a domino effect of damage that may not be apparent immediately.
This serves as a timely reminder that you can never be too careful when posting comments online. The damage an inappropriate comment may cause to your personal life or your business can be costly and devastating. If someone can prove that you have damaged their reputation then legal action can be taken against you. Be aware that this applies to comments on portals such as Snapchat or Instagram too!
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.