freedom of opinion and defamation

In this day and age of sky rocketing technological breakthroughs, including the expansion of social media and blogging platforms, the expression of one’s opinions, whether of a specific person or political view, are continuously publicised on public platforms.

This has opened the flood gates to individuals taking to public platforms to “vent”. The quick and easy access to public platforms, being a touch of a button away, has given rise to increased defamation cases in the Courts.

There is a fine line between voicing your opinions and defaming an individual or a company.

“Defamation” in Australia means publicised statements causing harm to reputation.

In the case of Smith v Lucht [2016] QCA 267, defamatory imputations which were damaging to the reputation of the applicant were made on 3 occasions, via email and twice verbally outside a public restaurant. Factors taken into consideration when a Court is deciding whether the applicant was likely to sustain harm include:

  1. The content of the publication
  2. The extent of the publication
  3. The nature of the recipients and their relationship with the applicant

When an applicant sues for compensation for defamation, the applicant does not have to prove his case. It is the reverse. It is the defendant that has to prove to the Court that the plaintiff was unlikely to suffer any harm by the publication at the time of the publication.

The High Court case of Trkulja v Google LLC [2018] HCA 25 saw the applicant allege Google damaged his reputation as a result of search results which described the applicant as a “hardened and serious criminal in Melbourne”.

The High Court found that the Google search results, being images, articles and autocomplete predictions, which referred and linked the Plaintiff to the words “criminal” were evidently capable of conveying a defamatory meaning. The High Court held that an individual conducting the search would assume that the corresponding words are a connection between the individual, terms used and the contents of the search [60].

These 2 cited cases provide 2 extremes, comments between family members and comments on the publicised platform.

In this world of rapid developing technology, defamation and the greater use of internet platforms as a means of communicating ones opinion, may result in defamation becoming a line which will be increasingly toyed with.

Our team of professional defamation lawyers have the technical expertise to assist you in making any claim for defamation if your reputation has suffered as a result of online publications against you or your business.

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