Public naming and shaming, a crime
115 000 followers in just one month, Not Another Child, the Facebook page on everyone’s lips continues to publicly name and shame rapists and sexual perpetrators in the Eastern Cape and countrywide. A number of named and shamed, mostly music DJs and church pastors have promised to take legal action against their alleged victims, as some were never reported to the police.
According to Liaan Murray, Attorney for Bax Kaplan Russell Incorporated in East London this act has serious legal ramifications. The legal position in South Africa with regards to liability for defamatory statements or “posts” made on Facebook has been adjudicated upon in our Courts.
“Defamation is the wrongful and intentional publication of a defamatory statement concerning another person which has the effect of tarnishing that person’s name or reputation. The important elements of this definition are a wrongful and intentional publication,” explained Murray.
He adds that, ‘wrongful’ in the context of Facebook means that any person reading the post will attach a negative connotation to the content. The person posting the content will naturally have the intention to injure the person’s reputation and will know that by posting the content, the outcome will be just that.
“Our Courts have made rulings where the person posting defamatory content had to remove it, in some cases the entire platform used to publish the defamatory content was ordered to be deleted and the Courts have awarded damages to the person who was on the receiving end of a defamatory post. A person may also be interdicted from posting such content in future,” he details.
Our law does not require a person to be the originator of the defamatory content to be held liable, merely repeating or ‘sharing’ a defamatory post is sufficient to constitute defamation.
As soon as people start posting names, telephone numbers, addresses and pictures of alleged perpetrators on this platform, they expose themselves to a potential defamation suit.
“Should anyone posting content be sued for defamation, they will have to be able to prove that the content is true and for public benefit or that the content or allegations have already been proven in Court, failing which they will find themselves to be liable,” a position no one wants to find themselves in.
Murray warned that everyone should be careful and mindful of the content they put on any social media platform.