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Defamed via social media? How can a not-for-profit respond?

02 Mar 2016

With the rise of social media, instances of defamation are reaching a much wider audience and can have significant consequences for not for profit organisations.

With an increased ability and tendency to monitor social media, more and more instances of defamation are being identified. So what do you do?

The law

Corporations do not generally have a cause of action in defamation unless the corporation is an excluded corporation as defined by the Defamation Act 2005 (Qld) (Act). Ordinarily, if false statements are made by a person or persons about a corporation, the corporation’s main recourse is to commence a civil action for injurious falsehood (not defamation as is generally thought), which is more difficult to prove  than defamation.

Fortunately, most not for profit organisations will fall within the definition of an excluded corporation and  may still have a right to   bring an action for  defamation against a person or persons who have defamed your organisation.

What can a not for profit organisation do?

The first thing to do is to bring your concerns to the attention of the publisher of the defamatory material by serving what is called a Concerns Notice. A Concerns Notice, as the name suggests, sets out your concerns and gives the publisher the opportunity to make amends.

The main aim of the Concerns Notice is to try and resolve the matter without further recourse to the Courts. However, if a publisher does not ultimately respond, or does not respond satisfactorily, to the Concerns Notice that failure by the publisher can be pleaded in any defamation proceedings that are subsequently brought.

The publisher’s failure to respond to a Concerns Notice, properly or at all, can also be useful to you on the question of costs at the conclusion of proceedings.

If you think your organisation has been defamed, Hynes Legal can assist you in determining whether your organisation does in fact meet the criteria of an excluded corporation for the purposes of the Act and, if so, take the necessary first steps to bring your concerns to the notice of the publisher of the defamatory material.

Our litigation team is well versed in defamation matters and can provide you with timely and informed advice to assist in the preservation of your not for profit organisation’s valuable reputation. 

 

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