You can be sued for retweeting alleged sexual assault claims on social media

The recent spate of femicide cases in South Africa has sparked social media users to name and shame their alleged offenders online.

RELATED: You can be sued for naming and shaming alleged rapists on Twitter

Is it right to name and shame alleged perpetrators of sexual offences anonymously without concrete evidence - and should these posts be retweeted?

Where does the law stand in naming and shaming alleged perpetrators on social media?

RELATED: Naming alleged sexual offenders on social media anonymously...is it legal?

Eusebius McKaiser speaks to Ampofo-Anti Consulting media law specialist and partner Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti to weigh in on the matter.

If I go on Twitter right now and I name someone as the person that raped me, what does the law have to say about something like that?

Eusebius McKaiser, Presenter

Ampofo-Anti says society needs to understand that the law online is the same as the law in real life. And in this case, the law of defamation would apply.

The law of defamation says that if you put out a statement about somebody which would result in other people thinking less of that person, their reputation being harmed by that statement, then you are potentially liable.

Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti, Media law specialist and partner - Ampofo-Anti Consulting

If you go on Twitter and say so and so assaulted me, obviously, people will think less of that person, their reputation will be harmed and therefore there is a potential defamation claim that you are exposing yourself to.

Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti, Media law specialist and partner - Ampofo-Anti Consulting

She adds that when it comes to a defamation claim, truth and public interest, as well as fair comment, apply.

If in your defence can prove that what you said is the truth and it is of public interest, then you can use that defence. However, it is difficult to prove truth in a court of law compared to the court of public opinion.

Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti, Media law specialist and partner - Ampofo-Anti Consulting

She says a person who retweets the sexual assault claims can also be held accountable for a defamation claim.

In defamation law, we have what we call a repetition rule, which means if you repeat a defamatory statement, then you are equally liable.

Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti, Media law specialist and partner - Ampofo-Anti Consulting

Listen below to the full conversation:


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