Bad news for anyone thinking the internet is a safe place to defame someone. A Mayo judge has held that writing something on Facebook is like publishing it in a newspaper.
Judge Mary Devins made the comments last week during her ruling on an assault case. The case centred on accusations that the CEO of a Ballina laboratory attacked an animal rights protestor.
Leonard Moran of Carrentrila, Ballina, was accused of assaulting Laura Broxon from Dublin but denied the charge. Broxon alleged that Moran punched her, while he said that she ran into his fist. Only thing was, he was holding a hammer at the time.
After the incident a woman called Maureen O'Malley came on the scene... and that's where it all went wrong. Broxon told O'Malley her version of events which O'Malley then helpfully posted on Facebook.
Judge Devins said that had ‘fatally compromised’ the assault case which was consequentially dismissed. She said there was no difference between posting the comments on Facebook and in a local or national newspaper.
The ruling could have serious implications for the web world and what people can actually get away with saying online. The fact that a member of the judiciary has said that Facebook is no different to publishing could very well mean that defamation laws could be more strenuous enforced online.