Dilanchian Lawyers & Consultants
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Anonymous and pseudonym lose defamation cases

My entry into social media in 2006 was facilitated by conversations in earlier years with Des Walsh.

As a strategist in the field, Des has a keen interest in legal considerations for social media. He has often spoken to me about the legal risk of defamation on a social media network, eg Facebook, YouTube or Whirlpool.

In a recent conversation with him I told him that the best  headline or title for a Lightbulb blog post was written by Michael Clarke, a lawyer who worked at our firm. The post concerned how Dick Smith, a prominent person in Australian life and business, took legal action to discover the identity of the anonymous author who made a disparaging comment about Dick in an online forum.

Dick claimed it was defamatory and the author paid dearly. I know this because the author called me to request we remove the author's name from our Lightbulb post. I did so immediately to ease the author's pain.

So what remains our blog's best ever headline? - "You don't know Dick - but he knows you".

Yesterday, Des sent me a one line email titled "He didn't know Dick either". He linked a very interesting report in the BRW business magazine concerning a new case of exposure of an author of disparaging or defamatory comments online. This author used a pseudonym. The BRW headline is "No Name is No Defence". We think ours are better. :)

OUR TAKEAWAY is that legal liability can result from the online activities below. In an organisation or company there should be a policy and training on the subject. In a practical sense each activity involves greater legal risk of defamation claims than unrecorded offline gossip or phone calls.

  • A post at an online forum
  • A rave in a chat room
  • Instant messaging
  • Comments uploaded to social media sites.

FOR MORE DETAIL read A Worldpool of Legal Risk.

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