Lets Talk About Defamation

I've been watching the case of Rebel Wilson vs. Bauer Media since I found out it was happening because I am SO intrigued and impressed that finally someone is taking a stand against magazines spreading false information. A few magazines that I see on the stands *cough* Women's Day *cough* are SO unreliable and I love seeing celebrities and personalities calling them out for it on social media. So when it was revealed that Rebel Wilson was going to take it one step further and sue the media company I was ecstatic, finally someone was going to stand up against these people and make them see that what they are doing- spreading false information JUST to make sales is wrong and needs to stop, because as you know The Introvert Archive is a strong supporter of the truth.
image found here. 

Basically, Rebel is suing Bauer Media for defamation in the form of articles that claimed she was lying about her age and her personal background. According to Rebel the grounds for this case is these articles costing her roles in hit movies, which is understandable. She goes as far as to say that the articles that spread false information ruined her career and left her with a bad reputation with Hollywood's producers and directors.

So what is defamation law? Its the law that protects peoples reputations. Basically if your reputation has been wrongfully attacked you have the right to take legal action against the attacker. However, you can only take legal action if the three elements listed below have been checked off:
  • the material was published- ie. written, spoken or illustrated (this includes being written on the internet);
  • the plaintiff (the person who is claiming defamation) is identified, whether it be directly or indirectly int he material;
  • the material is proven to be defamatory.
 Defamatory words? What does that mean? Its words that when used, convey a meaning about a person that lowers that persons reputation in the eyes of the general community, or causes the person to be ridiculed, avoided or despised by the general public.

So in this case Bauer Media has published multiple articles throughout their published magazines that made the public believe Rebel Wilson was lying about not only her age but about her personal history. This material that was published was defamatory to her because it lowered her reputation, as she has said with directors and producers which has in turn caused her career to suffer as a result of these articles.

This is not the first defamation case to be highly publicised. In 2016 a Queensland women won $10,000 in damages after a defamtion case against her ex-husband. David Levick (the ex-husband) wrote a scathing Facebook post about his ex-wife June Marie Kelly in November 2014 in the midst of a messy divorce and property settlement. Within the post he claimed she "commits criminal offences" calling her a thief and stating she suffered from a mental disorder. This Facebook post that Mr Levick defended, saying the post was meant to be a private one and he accidentally set it to public cost him over $10,000 when you add in the interest rate set by the judge and an added Facebook apology to his ex-wife.

In 2014 social media was the soul of a defamation case yet again, this time in NSW. Music teacher Christine Mickle from Orange High School sued former student Andrew Farley (who was never actually taught by her) for defamation after he posted a series of Tweets and Facebook comments about Ms Mickle after she took over his fathers role as senior Arts teacher at the high school in 2008. Mr Farley believed and published his beliefs that Ms Mickle had something to do with his father leaving the school and bared a grudge against her for his beliefs. The evidence actually showed his father left the school for health reasons and had nothing to do with Ms Mickle. As a result Mr Farley was ordered to pay $85,000 in compensation to Ms Mickle as well as an extra $20,000 in aggravated damages for his conduct in response to the case.

A more famous Australian defamation case happened in 1989, called the "Blue Angel defamation case". On 29th May 1984, The Sydney Morning Herald published a review of The Blue Angel Restaurant written by Leo Schofield with the headline "High drama where lobsters have no privacy." The review was less than glowing and resulted in restaurant owner Marcello Marcabello suing Mr Schofield and the publisher John Fairfax & Sons ltd. His claims were that the review implied he was a cruel and inhumane restaurateur in regards to how he cooked his lobsters, and stated that he charged prices that didn't reflect good value. The result of the case was Schofield and Fairfax being ordered to pay Mr Marcobello $78,000 and $22,000 to the restaurant, plus more than $50,000 in interest.

While these cases seem extreme its a timely reminder to watch what we post on social media. Have you head of the newspaper test? Its a test that you do before you post anything on social media, you think of yourself as the editor of a newspaper and what your about to post is going in said newspaper. You need to consider this before you post because in truth you are just as liable as a newspaper editor for what you post on social media. You can also be held accountable for defamation even if you aren't the original source, so if you retweet or share something defaming someone you can be held responsible also.

So, please think before you post, it could cost you.