We all know the cautionary tale of Adam Catzavelos, the idiot who celebrated the absence of black people at his holiday destination in Greece in a video which he shared with a group of friends on WhatsApp.
So how did the video go from a private group chat to court proceedings? One of the people he trusted with his racism distributed it online.
The point is, in a roundabout way, that sharing offensive content on WhatsApp isn’t as safe as you might have thought it was.
Before we launch into the legal jargon, I’m going to outline the simplest way not to land yourself with defamation charges:
Don’t be kak.
If you have no impulse control and can’t help sharing racist or offensive content, then here’s what you need to know.
Nailah van der Schyff, director at boutique law firm VDS Inc, told MyBroadband that if you send a message to a single person, you cannot attract liability for defamation.
Defamation is defined as the wrongful intentional distribution or publication of a defamatory statement about another person.
“Publication means that more than one person – hence a third party(ies) outside the defamer and the victim – has to have seen the defamatory statement for it to constitute defamation.”
However, if the person who received the message decides to publish it, they can be held liable.
“Those who published the defamatory statement could still be held liable despite them not being the author of the said statement,” van der Schyff said.
If you send a message to a WhatsApp group and one person leaks the message or video, both the author and the person who leaked it can be held liable.
To break it down even further, here are some helpful tips for sharing content on WhatsApp:
- Make sure that the content is not defamatory in that it has the effect of damaging another’s reputation.
- If you are the administrator of a group, make sure you educate the members of the group as to what is appropriate to share or post. As an administrator, you could potentially also be held liable for what is shared on the group.
- If defamatory statements are posted or shared, make sure that you immediately have them deleted and advise everyone that such statements are not condoned or allowed.
All of this can once again be summed up as “don’t be kak”.
Also, choose better friends.
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