Never forget: posting on Facebook is publishing

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Never forget: posting on Facebook is publishing

Facebook can be a funny ‘place’ at the best of times: public and private, intimate, and open – to strings of tenuously-linked ‘friends of friends’…

And of course there’s also all the controversy about uses your information might be put to without your knowledge or consent.

But for your part, perhaps what’s most important to remember, always, is that writing a post on Facebook – whether on your own ‘timeline’, or posting to another’s, does constitute ‘publishing’. In legal terms.

In other words, it can be liable as libel.

And one recent ICAEW Legal Alert highlights this hazard.

Disparaging comments

In this case, feelings were clearly running high, following an acrimonious divorce. The ex-wife involved ‘sent a friend request on Facebook to her former husband’s new partner, who accepted’.

She – the ex – then proceeded to post ‘a number of disparaging comments about her former husband’ onto ‘the new partner’s Facebook ‘wall’’.

The ex-husband ‘sued the ex-wife for libel’.

Whose wall?

The ex-wife felt the new partner was responsible for monitoring her own Facebook – and could have modified privacy settings ‘to control who saw posts’.

She argued, then, that she herself ‘should not therefore be liable for who saw those posts on the partner’s Facebook.’

But her argument was overturned in the Court of Appeal.

Pinning messages on a noticeboard

‘It found that, by posting them to the partner’s Facebook, she had published her defamatory statements to all of the partner’s Facebook friends. The ex-wife’s acts were analogous to pinning messages on a noticeboard in, for example, a workplace, where they could be read by a number of people.’

The Legal Alert draws out this recommendation.

‘Spouses and others in acrimonious disputes should avoid posting defamatory comments on social media such as Facebook, as this may amount to them publishing them for the purposes of defamation law’.

See the full Legal Alert here.

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