The use of social media has exploded in recent years. Many of us use social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Most of us post photos of ourselves on vacation or out with friends or share an article we find interesting. However, sometimes things can get heated on social media and people end up making mean-spirited or even malicious posts about others. So what can you do if someone posts something untrue about you on social media?
You can file a civil action against the person for defamation. This means you can bring a claim against the person in court that usually involves requiring the person to remove the defamatory posts as well as asking for damages (money) as compensation for the damage done to your reputation.
Defamation is defined as a false, published statement that is injurious to your reputation. It should be noted if someone posts something negative or mean-spirited, it is not in itself subject to a defamation lawsuit. The published statement/s must be untrue.
Additionally, there are TWO types of defamation: libel and slander. Libel is a defamatory statement in a permanent form, usually written, e.g. in a book, magazine, newspaper, letter etc. On the other hand, slander is a defamatory statement in a non-permanent form, e.g. by means of spoken words or gestures (difficult to prove). In the case of posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, the type of defamation would be libel.
You can consult with an attorney about the malicious and false statements made by the person. The attorney may first send a pre-action protocol letter to the individual asking him/her to remove the defamatory posts and to cease and desist from publishing any future defamatory content about you. If the individual fails to adhere to the request, your attorney would likely move to file a civil action against the person for defamation.
In Trinidad and Tobago, there can also be criminal sanctions (prison time) for defamation. A criminal defamation action can be brought by the state against an individual who allegedly publishes defamatory libel about a particular person, knowing it to be false. Those found guilty could face up to two years in prison (section 8 of the Libel and Defamation Act). However, criminal defamation mostly applies to defamatory libel by journalists and the media. It would not apply in a case where someone you know is making defamatory statements against you online.
Important Notice: This post does not constitute or provide legal advice. Always consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any legal problem or issue.