Defamation. You said what?

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the defamation lunch and learn put on the PLEO society today.

I recommend it to anyone who is interested. I took notes, and these are them below. Some of the terms I jotted down for future reference, and let me acknowledge that I think this workshop could have gone on for a week, there is just so much to discuss and talk about, so these notes are no way an exhaustive list on the topic.

Hopefully you can understand my notes or some of these terms can help you in your own research or lead you to inquire with legal minds about the topic. As someone who blogs, I find this topic fascinating. I can see how this area of law and the discussions around free speech are just going to intensify. Free speech to me is a VERY worthy conversation.


Defamation is an area of law – protecting someone’s reputation who has had bad things said about them. Hatred, ridicule or contempt.

Said something about you, that it’s published, defamatory – something with a real sting to it.

Liable or slander

Oral or written – can take either form

Even if it’s deleted, still repercussions. It wont matter that it’s been deleted.

Defamation law around hundreds of years old

Someone is presumed to have a good reputation. The damage in defamation go to repair the harm in your reputation. You would need to prove your loses, what you lost due to the defamation statements.

Is a statement defamatory. The judge would decide – What does the statement you made actually mean?

The judge would need to decide if it went beyond insult or criticism.

You can have clear defamatory statements or it can be an innuendo.

Social media has been wonderful for defamation lawyers. Social media posts are not personal conversations, they are to the world. Lawsuits are on the rise.

Sometimes defamation lawsuits draw more attention to the statement and can make things worse.

It is not just a person it can also apply to an organization.

The organization can defame or be defamed. The person who said those things, can also be sued along with the organization.


Truth is a defense – the responsibility would be on the defendant (person who is being sued for defamation) is on them to prove that it is true.

Defense of Fair comment – free speech rights.  – matter of public interest

It can’t be said in a malicious purpose. Eg. You got fired, and so you are making a statement

Two types of privelage. Absolute privelage and qualified privelage (moral obligations, etc) Duty to warn

Duty to warn – is protected.

Qualified privelage is very narrow. Saying you were abused in a tweet, wont cover this.

Right to speak vs. Right to keep a reputation

The law does not protect a sexual assault survivor to speak their truth. The survivor can be sued.

The protection of Public Participation Act 2019. PPA – what kind of speech do we want to protect. The legislation is still new. Not enough case law.

Be ready to back up your statements. If you can support it, than you can make it.  Present it as a fair comment.  You can still be sued, even if you have a defense. They can sue you, just to sue you.

Who is your audience, who are you doing this for? Why are you saying this?

Defamatory is very accusatory, pointing fingers as someone specific

An opinion has be to be one that is reasonably held.

Comments meant to be kept in a friends social media group can be shared

Republication – recent case law

You can be liable for republicizing someone else’s comment. One person posted on Facebook and other people commented. The originally poster was found responsible for other people’s comments. Due to – It was the probable consequences of making such a post in the first place.

You can’t control where your posts go.

Term – Fair dealing

Don’t be fearful about commenting, but do be respectful. If you get it wrong, apologize. A comprehensive apology online.  It stops the damages clock.

If you do defame someone, use your words to deescalate and apologize.