Social media and defamation: What you need to know

Can you sue a worker for a dodgy Instagram post?

Social media and defamation: What you need to know

Defamation is the making of false statements, in written or spoken form, about another person, negligently or maliciously, that has the effect of harming the reputation of the person.

Employers can be affected where:

    • the false statement is directed either at the individual. For example in the case of a sole proprietorship or the business, which has the effect of harming the businessreputation.
    • the false statement identifies the business, either by stating the name or showing a picture.
    • the false statement is published and transmitted to a third party.
    • the false statement cause a loss of reputation or money.

Read more: Panasonic probes manager for alleged threatening to fire staff

If an employer is defamed on social media, whether by written words or spoken words via Instagram Stories for example, the effects on the business can be particularly damaging, given that the defamatory words would have been easily published and transmitted to millions of people on the internet.

If the social media post is reshared, this also constitutes a republication of the defamatory content.

It’s important that the employer manages the situation carefully. Consider the following:

    • Reach out to the person who uploaded the defamatory content to find out why such content was uploaded, and to take down the content.
    • Explore settlement options, including having the content taken down.
    • Do not be antagonistic towards the person who uploaded the defamatory content. 
    • If necessary, release a brief statement to state the companys position on the matter.

Read more: How recruiters check for red flags on social media

Seek legal advice, especially if the defamatory content has truly damaged or continues to damage the companys reputation, for example resulting in loss of customers or fall in revenue. Moreover, if attempts to negotiate with the person who uploaded the defamatory content failed.

Proper and careful management of the situation, from the beginning to the end, is key – this factors into the businessreputation in the long run.

Nicolas Tang is the Managing Director and Jolene Gwee is an Associate at Farallon Law Corporation.

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