ICT & the Law in OJADAMOLA’s Space
Timeline 1: For the Social media User –
Click 1- Defamation
Snapchat, Hashtags, Instagram, Status updates, Twitter, Viral, Pinterest, Facebook, Reddit, Memes, Medium, Whatsapp, Google Plus, Trends, Retweet, Dms and the list goes on and on. The beauty and benefits of these social media applications cannot be denied.
Marriages have sprung forth from them, millions of dollars have emanated from profitable use of the internet, proselytism is made easier, social circles have been formed and maintained; Information is disseminated in little or no time and as such lives have been saved through the use of Social Media.
The question however is “how do we handle the obvious downsides of these global blessings?” How can the law used to keep track of such an open space as the internet in a country like Nigeria where over 75% of its online population has access to social media.
Some individuals are of the strong opinion that social media and the law are two parallel poles which can never meet; I am however of the opinion that this notion is very false. While it is true that Nigeria does not have a specific legislation for civil liabilities on social media, all hope is not lost as there exists a law for just about every offence, which can in turn be interpreted in the cyberspace context.
Do you have questions as to issues of defamation on social media? Is your reputation being destroyed on the internet? Are false rumours being spread about you by a blogger on a website? Well, do not fret!. There is an aspect of the law that can be interpreted to protect your rights on ICT.
This aspect of law is the under the law of torts called Defamation. There are basically two types of Defamation which are Slander and Libel. Though, the tort of defamation has been in existence since before the advent of technology, it is not restricted to just hard copy publications but if proved adequately covers the cyberspace publications too.
Slander refers to information which is published but not recorded in any permanent form; Libel on the other hand refers to malicious information recorded in permanent form . Thus, for social media which is usually in permanent form, libel is almost always the applicable tort.
The advantage that one has in this regard stems from the fact that libel is actionable per se- which means you do not have to prove that damage has been caused to you. The mere fact that such statement or publication is libellous is usually in itself enough.
In proving your case, some of the elements of defamation which must be in existence are
1. That the statement must have been published to a third party: Ensure you have proof of this. Take a screenshot of that image or save the scandalous post. You have no worries as electronic evidence is admissible in our law courts and also in alternative dispute resolution proceedings.
2. The statement must be false: You have a baseless claim if the photos posted or the viral tweet which damaged your reputation is true. If you want equity, you must come with clean hands.
3. The written publication must refer to the aggrieved person: It really does not matter if you have a different name on your online profile or that your “Instagram handle” is not the name which you are ordinarily identifiable by. So long as it can be proved that the publication in question refers to you, then you have a good claim.
Thus, if an individual comes up with a Meme (without your acquiescence) which has the tendency of destroying your business or reputation; or a social media influencer posts a damaging and insulting tweet about you, the tort of defamation is your go-to-guy for justice.
In all, the message really is this:
If you have been a victim of disparaging publications, you should call a lawyer as soon as possible, because once all the pointers explained above exist and can be proved, the law will protect you and even award you monetary compensation of some sort.
For the social media user, before you post that insulting tweet, forward that damaging WhatsApp BC, publish that malicious article or photo-shopped image, pause and take a deep breath.
This is because if your victim is one who is knowledgeable as to his/her rights, you could have a lawsuit on your hands. Thus, be wise and discerning as to how you use Social Media and the cyberspace in general as ignorance of the law is never an excuse.
Have you experienced social media defamation before? Share your experience in the comment section.
Ensure you Click on the next Timeline for another enlightening Column on ICT and the Law in OJADAMOLA’s Space.
Kehinde Takuro is a graduate of the University of Lagos with particular interest in Cyber & Technology Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Property law and Commercial law practice in general. She is an avid writer and blogs in her spare-time. Kehinde is also a First Class Graduate of the Nigerian Law School.