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Tech Talk Radio Show 9 of 2010
Transmission date: March 1, 2010
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Ep 09 of 2010
March 1, 2010

There are good sides and bad sides to social networking, and recently the bad side has been making headlines with disturbing regularity. Some members of the community think that it’s OK to vent on sites such as blogs and facebook without any chance of being held accountable for their actions or in this case their words. Defamation is a false accusation or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions, something which is becoming extremely prevalent on today’s social networking sites.

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The general law has divided defamation into two categories - libel and slander. Libel is the publication of defamatory matter in permanent form, while slander is the publication of defamatory matter in non-permanent form. Something defamatory that is printed in a newspaper or book is libel, but the same thing, if spoken, is slander. Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the publication of defamatory matter over radio or television is deemed to be in permanent form and is, therefore, libel.

Since the introduction of the Defamation Act 2005 on 1st January 2006, the distinction between slander and libel is abolished and the publication of defamatory matter of any kind is actionable without proof of special damage.

It is not uncommon for individuals to vent their frustrations in the online world, a world which is becoming more permanent as time rolls by, thanks to certain technologies which take snapshots of the internet at regular intervals to preserve it for posterity. (ie Wayback Machine) Saying something (online) in the heat of the moment can have long term and far reaching ramifications to both the author and those who are the subject of said outburst. It’s extremely hard to remove these comments once published on the internet so unless things are factually correct, go easy on naming names and emotional outbursts on sites like facebook.

It should also be noted that parents are still legally responsible for what their children say and do online, and it’s not uncommon that the first a parent will hear of such online outbursts is when law enforcement officers come knocking.

Just this week in Australia legal counsel Martin Bennett had a short message for those who allow themselves to attack reputations over the internet, imagining they are safe under the cloak of anonymity. He said ''You can be hunted down and found'' Mr Bennett has done just that for a Perth client, winning $30,000 in damages and costs, an apology, and undertakings from a Colac man that he won't post any more defamatory comments.

So a warning to all this week; be careful what you write, say and publish online. There is no such thing as anonymity on the internet, and things said in the heat of the moment have a way of coming back to haunt, either in a civil or criminal way.

This Week on Tech Talk Radio

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  • AFACT to appeal the IInet piracy ruling
  • Opposition continues to rise for conroys internet filter
  • Facebook win a patent over news feeds, and
  • Skype withdraws from windows mobile.