Facebook is not a playground

Garry Hertzberg.
Garry Hertzberg.

MANY have been a victim of hateful or insulting Facebook comments.

Although the victim may beg and plead with the culprit to remove nasty posts, Facebook users have freedom of speech and can say whatever they want on their Facebook walls, right? Wrong!

This is something we have seen played out a few times. Many do not know what one can say on social media and what the consequences are. Clearly, promoting violence and hate speech is illegal, but what about airing your dirty laundry?

The truth is that you are not separate from your digital identity and whatever you send out into the social media world does have real-world consequences.

The law says that your Facebook wall is a public place and you are not free to post whatever you want. The best way to understand this is to imagine your social media platform as a stage and think about what you would say when everyone in the country, or the whole world to be more precise, is attending your show.

Although freedom of expression means that you can actually be quite extreme in your views, it must fall into fair comment or opinion without damaging the reputation of a specific person or set of people.

One simply cannot make insulting, defamatory remarks on Facebook or Twitter and not be held liable. There may be severe consequences and damages may be awarded to the victim, and not only that but even posts by other people who tag you can result in you being held liable for defamation, and you don’t even have to mention the victim by name to be found liable by our courts.

The best advice would be to think before you post. It is so easy to fall into the trap of feeling untouchable when you are separated from your audience or victim by a keyboard, computer screen and data connection. People seem to feel that they can say things online that they would never say in person.

Remember that the image you portray on social media is actually an extension of your real self and if it’s in the public domain, it’s fair game.


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