There has been a rising concern about use of social media. A lot is spread through social media forums. These posts may not always be authentic.
I believe that in the face of damaging rumours, the aggrieved party should use the same media to re-enforce the truth.
For example, if there is a rumour on social media about your company, the best response is to present the truth through your online presence. A lot of aggrieved businesses and individuals have done this successfully.
The legislation that one could apply in the event of rumour-mongering on social media include hate speech laws, the Penal Code and communication laws.
These pieces of legislation penalise misuse of social media to spread rumours that are injurious to one’s image or that compromise public security.
We have witnessed a number of persons successfully charged in court for this misuse.
Such trial processes have served as a deterrent. Hate speech on Facebook has gone down significantly thanks to these trials.
What do you do if you find yourself undergoing a social media smear that is false?
Firstly, keep a lot of evidence of the same, through screen shots and other means.
Two, get to know the perpetrators and request them to pull down the offending posts. Use your own social media page to state the correct position.
If the perpetrators refuse to pull down the post, then you should monitor the same and take as much evidence as you can, even as you resort to legal process. Your lawyer will then write a demand letter setting out the damage caused by the post and demand its immediate retraction.
If the perpetrator is adamant and does not adhere to the demands of the letter, then the matter proceeds to the usual court process.
The court will then order for the false statement to be pulled down, an apology on the same medium and damages.
The court will probably look at the number of followers or friends the perpetrator has and how accessible the post is to the public. The higher the number the more the damages.
There has been a lot of litigation around social media usage, the latest being a case where a WhatsApp administrator was sued.
The court however held that he could not be held liable for defamatory statements made on the group because the users of WhatsApp are able to post without seeking the approval of the administrator.
Therefore, as a WhatsApp administrator, set ground rules for your group and ensure that offenders are warned in the event of misuse.
If there is a consistent misuse of the platform , it may be better to remove the offender from the group to minimise risk.
Cases are told of successful applicants to an Ivy League university having their admissions revoked due to misuse of a WhatsApp group.
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