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Beware online defamation 12 Feb 2015

For many people, social media such as Facebook or blogs, are to be avoided like the plague.

Some of their reasons might well be valid. Take the issue of defamation.

Did you know that the publisher of a blog or Facebook page may be liable for content on that page? It applies not only to an original post but also any further comments people have posted in response.

The law seems at first to take a contrary stance. Section 21 of the Defamation Act 1992 suggests a defence of innocent defamation. It says:

In any proceedings for defamation against any person who has published the matter that is the subject of the proceedings solely in the capacity of, or as the employee or agent of, a processor or a distributor, it is a defence if that person alleges and proves –

(a) that that person did not know that the matter contained the material that is alleged to be defamatory; and

(b) that that person did not know that the matter was of a character likely to contain material of a defamatory nature; and

(c) that that person's lack of knowledge was not due to any negligence on that person's part..

However this defence ceases to apply as soon as the publisher receives notice or knowledge of the defamatory content. So if you own a  Facebook page or blog and you’re told comments you have published are defamatory, then you have to remove them as soon as possible. If you don’t, you could be liable for the comments as publisher.

So it pays to think twice about what you say about people online – whether you like them or not!

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