Article by listed attorney: Fawzia Khan
Be careful of venting on Facebook, it could cost you.
Two neighbours H and B, living in a gated estate were involved in a spat where H complained about the fact that B kept noisy chickens on the property. These chickens were then substituted with about 60 rabbits, and the smell of these rabbits was also a source of complaint to H who took photographs of the rabbits to highlight the conditions that he was being subjected to. In retaliation, B started a smear campaign against H on Facebook accusing H of being “a peeping tom” calling him “a perverse neighbour”, “an idiot” and “an ugly piece of shit." Many others saw the Facebook message where H’s name and address were also mentioned. H complained that the Facebook message was defamatory of him, that it injured his reputation and his dignity and claimed Rl.3 million rand as compensation. Defamation is 'the unlawful, intentional, publication of defamatory matter (by words or conduct), which causes a person’s reputation to be impaired.
H said that residents on the estate were also warned to be careful when they send their children to the community pool as H will be watching them, implying that he was a paedophile. Many other Facebook users commented on the post saying things like "shoot the bastard in the face with a pelletgun, the ugly two faced jurk (sic)". He was called a "flippen gemors" (scum), "a sick bleksem", "a monster", "a disgusting piece of shit". H complained that these Facebook posts affected his business and his reputation as a businessman and as a well-known resident of the estate. The court found that the Facebook posts did indeed injure H’s dignity and his reputation and ordered B to pay the sum of R350 000,00 as damages to H as compensation for the defamation.
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