“There has been a steady influx of cases over the past few years concerning defamatory comments made online. In the latest reported case (ZAM v CFW ) the High Court has again considered the fact that comments were published on the internet to make matters worse for the offender.
The logic behind this makes sense. I mean, whilst it may not be nice to have libellous comments written in graffiti on the side of a wall, the viewing audience is considerably smaller than those who can potentially view comments online. However, there is no legal presumption that this will always be the case.
Similarly, as the Court noted in the ZAM case, whereas a comment made in a newspaper may not be seen once thrown away that evening, writings online are accessible for much longer and their content can be relied upon by many sources who are making checks on the person or enterprise they are dealing with. For example, employers nowadays often carry out internet searches on prospective candidates, and customers and client’s the same for goods and service providers. Understandably – and again as the Judge in the above case was quick to observe – most people are reluctant to associate themselves with others who attracts negative publicity. After all, we are all guilty of occasionally falling foul to the old presumption that there is ‘no smoke without fire’.
Bottom line – we should all make sure we keep an eye on our online personal and a commercial reputations. The law (for now at least) appears to acknowledge the potential magnitude of damage in this area.”