Bundaberg solicitor Edwina Rowan.
Bundaberg solicitor Edwina Rowan. Crystal Jones

How legal is it to post about others on social media?

BUNDABERG solicitor Edwina Rowan said it was not generally illegal to post photos online that were taken in public.

"However, people posting photos or comments on Facebook need to be aware that they can be liable for defamation,” she said.

"Defamation laws extend to posts put online and for this reason need to be very careful about what the post online because it can have far reaching consequences and can be very expensive.”

Ms Rowan described defamation as communicating information including words and images that were likely to affect that person's reputation.

"The defamation laws in Queensland say that to be defamatory what has been published must have been published to at least one other person,” she said.

"There are a couple of recent cases that talk about the 'grapevine effect' where dissemination of the defamatory material can occur through secondary publication on Facebook.

"This means that if someone shares a defamatory post they too can be found liable for defamation.”

Ms Rowan said the consequences of posting defamation online could be significant.

"If the Facebook publication has caused loss and damage including emotional hurt, humiliation and embarrassment or reduction of the person's professional reputation or standing, monetary damages could be claimed,” she said.

"The courts will look at whether there is a wider effect, for example if the publication has impacted on the person's standing in the community.

"If a court finds that what has been published is defamatory the person is presumed to have had their reputation damaged.

"The court may look at the amount of damage to the person's reputation to assess the amount of damages to award.

"Other legal ramifications include an injunction being granted preventing further publication of the defamatory material.”

There are a number of defences to defamation which include contextual truth, Ms Rowan said.

"That is, if the claims made are substantially true and do not further harm the person's reputation there may be a defence.

"Another defence is if the publisher can prove that the post was of honest opinion and in the public interest.”

Ms Rowan said the laws in Queensland were very clear in that people should try to resolve defamation proceedings without resorting to litigation.

"Often this will involve an offer by the person who published the material to make amends by paying an amount of compensation and offering (and publishing) a genuine retraction and an apology,” she said.

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