What is defamation?
‘Defamation’ means to damage another person’s reputation by publishing or communicating false statements about them. For more information about To damage another person’s reputation by publishing or communicating false statements about them. The old common law distinction between libel (written and published defamation) and slander (spoken defamation) no longer has any legal significance., see Chapter 11.2: Defamation and your rights.
A publication does not need to be ‘public’ to be defamatory. An email sent to a restricted group of people (or even sent to a single person) can be defamatory as much as a social media post that is publicly available. An example of a defamatory email can be found in the case of Raynor v Murray  NSWDC 189.
The same laws apply online
In Dow Jones & Co Inc v Gutnick  HCA 56, the High An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate. confirmed that the same laws govern defamation on the internet as govern defamation in other types of publications. In this case, the court also ruled that ‘publication’ (one of the elements of defamation) occurs when Relevant or important. For example, material evidence is something that helps to prove an argument in a criminal case. is downloaded, read and comprehended by a reader. This case has been confirmed in subsequent decisions.
Unintentional imputations (the meaning conveyed by the material) may arise from words or images on a website that are linked to words or images on a different site, or a different part of the same site. Words or images might be independently innocent, but when linked may give rise to a defamatory meaning. In certain cases, the publisher of one site may be responsible for the replication of defamatory material appearing on a linked site. Also, the risk of defamation can increase when an article is summarised and published as a tweet or post to a social media website. This is because when a shortened version is published, the context (and thereby the defences to the defamatory content) can be lost.
Case example: defamatory imputations
Hockey v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd  FCA 652
The former Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, sued Fairfax Media Publications alleging defamation, in relation to articles that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times newspapers. Each of those newspapers also published online versions of the articles on various online platforms with similar content to the substantive part of the printed articles.
From an internet law perspective, the interesting part of this case was that, aside from the printed and online versions of the articles, Mr Hockey also sued for defamation for some tweets published by The Age as separate publications. One tweet comprised only the words ‘Treasurer Hockey for Sale’ and was followed by a hyperlink to the story on The Age website. A second tweet contained a ‘summary’ comprising the following words: ‘Treasurer for Sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access. Treasurer Joe Hockey is granting privileged access to a select group of business leaders in return for political donations totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.’ The text appeared alongside a photo of Mr Hockey and a hyperlink to the story on The Age website. The third tweet was the same but also included the article, rather than a summary.
The Federal Court found that the articles were not defamatory because when read as a whole, any defamatory imputation that may have arisen by the headline was dispelled.
However, the first two tweets (and a poster or placard used to advertise the newspapers) were found to convey defamatory imputations. Namely that he corruptly solicited payments to influence his decisions as Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia; and he is corrupt in that he was prepared to accept payments to influence his decisions as Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia.
However, the court found that the third tweet, which contained the entire article, was not defamatory because any understanding that the Treasurer was engaging in corrupt conduct was dispelled.
The case establishes the risk in publishing via Twitter a short comment that does not have the advantage of providing the necessary context to ‘cure’ potentially defamatory remarks.
Liability of internet content hosts and service providers
Uniform defamation Acts that came into effect in January 2006 include a (1) A defendant’s response to the legal claims made against them in court by a prosecutor or plaintiff. (2) A lawful excuse for conduct: for example, causing minor injuries to someone while saving them from certain death. (3) ‘The defence’ is also a way of referring to the defendant and their legal team. of ‘innocent dissemination’ for subordinate distributors. This means that defamation actions can be defended, provided the ICH and ISP:
- were not the first or primary distributor;
- were not the author/originator of the matter; and
- did not have any The ability to understand and be held responsible by the law for your actions. It also refers to a person’s ability to understand and agree to something, such as to undergo medical treatment. Full legal capacity is reached at 18 years of age, when a child becomes an adult. to exercise editorial control over the content before it was published.
For more information about the uniform defamation Acts, see ‘What is defamation?’ in Chapter 11.2: Defamation and your rights.
Case example: A search engine’s Legal responsibility, enforced by civil or criminal courts.
Trkulja v Google LLC  HCA 25
In this case, the issue of a search engine’s liability was referred to, although Google did not rely on the defence of innocent dissemination.
At first instance, Google argued that it did not ‘publish’ autocomplete predictions and that it should be held to be immune from the law suit as a matter of public interest.
The High Court supported findings that Google did ‘publish’ the search results and that the range and extent of defences provided in division 2 of Part 4 of the Defamation A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. 2005 (Vic) mitigate heavily against the developments of a (1) The system of law developed by the English courts through precedent and adopted in ‘common law countries’ in the British Commonwealth (as opposed to Roman law (civil law) or ecclesiastical law). (2) The case law made by judges in that system. (3) Case law that is not part of the law of equity. (4) Historically, the rules of law common to all people in England, as distinct from local or customary laws. search engine proprietor immunity.