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Emma Sadleir: Beware of the risks before naming and shaming perpetrators online

16 January 2021 11:53 AM
Tags:
Sexual abuse
Social media
Defamation
Crimen Injuria
Emma Sadlier
SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS
naming and shaming
digital law

South Africa's leading digital law expert Emma Sadleir warns that there can be legal ramifications for making criminal accusations on social media.

Since the #MeToo movement in the US and the #AmINext in South Africa, it's become increasingly popular for victims of sexual abuse to expose their perpetrators online.

While this may be empowering for victims who have no faith in the criminal justice system, it also has legal implications.

Emma Sadleir, the founder of The Digital Law Company, says naming and shaming can lead to criminal or civil action against you.

Civil action

If you have made accusations against someone online, they may sue you for defamation.

Defamation is defined as the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure their reputation.

People can pursue defamation charges, irrespective of the platform that the information was published on as long as it is seen by one or more persons, Sadleir explains.

There are also grounds for defamation regardless of whether you refer to the perpetrator directly or indirectly.

If court action is taken against you, the onus will be on you to prove that the allegations are true and for the benefit of the public.

Sadleir adds that even if the accusations have been shared or retweeted by many others, there is still a risk of court action against you.

Criminal charges

If you have made accusations against someone online, you also face the risk of being charged with crimen injuria.

Crimen injuria is defined to be the act of "unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another."

Sadleir tells CapeTalk host Sara-Jayne King that the naming and shaming of sexual predators should not be done lightly.

"Make sure that you have got your legal ducks in a row and that you are able to defend [your claims] and don't be bullied if you are prepared to stand by your story", the expert adds.

I do understand why people have turned almost to this digital vigilantism to name and shame people, to ruin their reputations, particularly in GBV and sexual assault cases because the prosecution rate in South Africa is so appallingly low.

Emma Sadleir, Founder - Digital Law Company

It's an empowering thing for victims, even if they decide not to go through a criminal procedure - which probably won't land up with a prosecution.... but there are legal issues that are raised.

Emma Sadleir, Founder - Digital Law Company

If I out somebody on social media, then I am defaming them. It doesn't matter which platform. When defamation is concerened, we only require publication to one other person.

Emma Sadleir, Founder - Digital Law Company

We're seeing ordinary people not realising that, when they take to social media to name and shame, that they may have to go and defend a defamation action and people being bullies.

Emma Sadleir, Founder - Digital Law Company

Reputation is everything in the digital age, people are much more nervous about being named as a rapist online than facing a rape charge, which they will almost certainly get off.

Emma Sadleir, Founder - Digital Law Company

Listen to the discussion on Weekend Breakfast with Sara-Jayne King:




16 January 2021 11:53 AM
Tags:
Sexual abuse
Social media
Defamation
Crimen Injuria
Emma Sadlier
SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS
naming and shaming
digital law

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