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Law of Defamation in Australia

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Legal advice

This article outlines the elements of the tort of Defamation in Australia and the various defences available at law.

UNIFORM DEFAMATION LAWS

Previously, different Australian states had different Defamation laws, which often resulted in plaintiffs ‘forum-shopping’ by commencing their claim in the jurisdiction in which the law of defamation was most favourable to their case.

Now in Australia there are uniform Defamation Acts which have been designed to overcome this problem.

Section 6 of the Defamation Act 2005 provides that “This Act does not affect the operation of the general law in relation to the tort of defamation except to the extent that this Act provides otherwise (whether expressly or by necessary implication)”. Therefore, the common law still applies to the extent that it is not extinguished expressly or by necessary implication by legislation.

Section 8 of the Defamation Act 2005 provides that:

“A person has a single cause of action for defamation in relation to the publication of defamatory matter about the person even if more than one defamatory imputation about the person is carried by the matter.” Continue reading “Law of Defamation in Australia”

The perils of social media for twits

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The laws of defamation apply to social media as much as they apply anywhere else:

A FORMER high school student has been ordered to pay $105,000 to a teacher for writing defamatory remarks about her on social media in what is believed to be Australia’s first Twitter defamation case to go to trial.

Former Orange High School student Andrew Farley, 20, made “false allegations” about music teacher Christine Mickle on Twitter and Facebook in 2012, a year after he had left school.

Mr Farley, who had never been taught by Ms Mickle, seemed to bear a grudge against the 58-year-old based on a belief that she had something to do with his father, also a teacher, leaving the school, District Court Judge Michael Elkaim said in his ruling.

“There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate that belief,” Judge Elkaim said. “The effect of the publication on the plaintiff was devastating.’’

Anyone who frequents Twitter (or other social media) on a regular basis would know that false and defamatory assertions are often made about people. In some ways it’s a surprise that it’s taken this long for such a case to result in an award of damages in Australia.

Another twitter defamation case that went to court is that of Liberal pollsters Mark Textor and Lyndon Crosby against former Labor MP Mike Kelly for a tweet Kelly published about push polling.

When people go on social media to rant, they would be well advised to be careful that they do not open themselves to liability for defamation. A right to rant is not the same as a right to defame.

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