SOCIAL MEDIA LAW: TO POST OR NOT TO POST?

The advent of social media and networking has taken the entire world by storm to the extent that there is now over one billion people using Facebook on a daily basis and over five hundred million registered Twitter accounts.

The Constitution provides that every person in South Africa has the right to equality, human dignity, freedom of religion, opinion and belief, and freedom of expression. However, while protecting these rights is a constitutional imperative, ignorance of the law is no excuse and therefore in today’s day and age, it is now necessary, more than ever, not only to educate the public about their legal rights and obligations, but to educate them about the risks and consequences of publishing, posting and/or tweeting on social media networks.

While social networks on the internet don’t actually form part of a real or corporeal world, they reside in cyberspace and it is important to understand that, in South Africa, whatever laws apply to the real and corporeal world are also applicable to the world of cyberspace, the world wide web, and by extension social media and networks.

Secondly, one must understand that the concept of online anonymity does not exist and is in fact a myth. Every action or step taken online is recorded, falls within the public domain and once taken cannot be deleted or altered by choice. This is relevant when considering how one should use social media networks because any step taken online is automatically recorded in a public domain and may constitute legal acts which may or may not carry risks and obligations.

Any person’s actions, statements and even omissions may lead to them being held legal liable.

DEFAMATION:

When someone spreads a rumour or makes statements about someone which places the person in a compromising or bad light, it is possible that such rumours or statements could be defamatory. Defamation is basically any conduct which damages someone’s public reputation.

South African law protects a person’s reputation against unjustified publications, whether oral or in writing, of anything which could damage a person’s reputation by allowing the person to either claim an amount as damages or force them to stop their conduct (interdict).

Remembering that the laws of the real world apply to the world of cyberspace, defamation can occur over social media networks. Accordingly any statement, publication, post and/or tweet made on a social network may form the basis of legal liability.

It is very important to note that the potential for legal liability doesn’t only apply to the person who initially made the statement. South African law provides that every person that forms part of the chain of publication of a statement can be sued or held responsible for the content contained in such a statement. It is therefore possible to hold a person responsible for re-publishing, sharing or re-tweeting any statement which they know or may reasonably know is defamatory.

A recent example of this occurred where a woman from Pretoria and her husband were ordered by the court to pay R 40 000.00 (forty thousand rand) in damages to the husband’s ex-wife after the couple had made defamatory statements about her on Facebook. In this particular case the husband was merely tagged in his wife’s defamatory posts and the court found this to be sufficient for him to be coupled in the offence of defamation.

Defamatory statements and acts are an daily occurrence on social networks and the public should be cautioned to refrain from making any statement which is potentially defamatory, keeping negative feelings or remarks to themselves and using the full force of the law to defend anyone who is a victim of such behaviour.

TROLLING:

In the world of cyberspace this is now becoming a common occurrence. A “Troll” is a person who deliberately and continually posts provocative or abusive messages to someone which are intended to cause pain, distress disruption and argument. In basic terms a “Troll” can be described as an online bully who feels fulfilment from other people’s pain or distress.

As of 27 April 2013 new legislation has been introduced to protect people from the acts of a “Troll”, among other things. This legislation is known as the Protection of Harassment Act and affords every person the right to initially have an order directing a service provider, such as a social network or cellular network, advise their client to stop the harassment, and failing this a final order can be made forcing the network to hand over the details of the harassing person so that further civil and criminal action may be taken against him or her.

If you are experiencing “trolling” the first step is to report the incident to the service provider. If reporting incidents doesn’t provide a remedy, then you may approach the court for further relief in terms of the Protection of Harassment Act. Below are a few links for social networks where you can report such incidents:

How to report abuse on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=247013378662696

How to report abuse on Twitter – https://support.twitter.com/forms/abusiveuser

How to report abuse on LinkedIn – abuse@linkedin.com

How to report abuse on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/yt/policyandsafety/

CONCLUSION:

Our world is constantly changing, with it our technology and as a consequence our lives and society are affected by this ever growing change. It is clear that we not only need to educate the public of what not to do, but it is also imperative that we teach them how to protect themselves from the harms of using social media networks

NUNO PALMEIRA

McLarens OFF Road Racing Team Report

On the 13th of February McLarens OFF Road Racing presented itself for round one of the GXCC race series at Bronkhorstspruit.

The riders were all a little nervous especially the novices Barbara, Adel and JohnJack. The team sponsored by McLarens Attorneys was looking good with two McLarens Gazebos (Thank you Gary Nilson) , new shirts, bikes freshly branded and our ace pit boss Russell Campbell winner of national titles in four separate decades.

On arrival the race venue was buzzing with with anticipation and excitement. What was in store from champion racer now turned race director Louwrens Mahoney organizer of the new GXCC series. One thing was for sure, expectations were high from the man with an Irish name from an Afrikaans background, who was determined not to disappoint.

This year there was a new format for the start, hands on head feet on the ground engine running. Interesting  to say the least with some spectacular failures off the line. Yours truly was unhappy as I fluffed the start, but managed to get back up to second with some hard racing with in the first three kilometers. Mark Davis our seasoned master started from the second row and drove around the chaos into a good position. Unfortunately Mark retired after two laps with mechanical failure.

Zack da Silva had a great day completing eight or nine laps, two of which he rode with a flat front tyre. At the end there was no doubt that he had given his all and had nothing left to offer.

The writer, Barbara, Adel, JohnJack completed six laps, a good day for the team.

Special mention to Russell Campbell our pit boss and the pit crew supporters Mario Da Silva, Roger Pieroni, Johan Botha

Our ace photog Craig Barendsen will have the race pics up early next week

All in all a good day with a special word of thanks to Louwrens Mahoney who exceeded our expectations.

 

Ian McLaren
McLarens Attorneys 

 

 

 

 

McLarens OFF Road Racing

Logo_McLarensMcLarens is pleased to announce that it will be sponsoring McLarens OFF Road racing for the 2016 race season

The race team will take part in the GXCC race series hosted by race director Louwrens Mahoney.

Our team is supported by Russell Campbell Racing and Dirt and Trail Magazine.

Our first race of the season will be on Saturday the 13th of February at Bronkhorstspruit.

The Team consists of nine members.

McLarens will publish free to download images of all the competitors in the GXCC series.

We would like to take the opportunity to wish the team well for the season

 

McLarens Attorneys
F
ebruary 2016

 

 

PRESERVATION APPLICATIONS AND ASSET FORFEITURE IN TERMS OF THE PREVENTION OF ORGANISED CRIME ACT 121 OF 1998 (POCA)

Logo_McLarens
The Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (POCA) is a statute which aims at preventing organised crime in South Africa. Section 38, 48, 50, and section 1 gives a person the right to apply for certain property to be preserved (kept in a safe place) and then forfeited to the state if such property is either:

  • an instrumentality of an offence;
  • the proceeds of unlawful activities; or;
  • property associated with terrorist or related activities.If a person believes that property is an instrumentality of an offence, the proceeds of unlawful activities, or property associated with terrorist or related activities, they must prove these elements on a balance of probabilities. If either of these elements are not proven then the provisions of POCA will not apply and the property cannot be forfeited to the state.

    Recently McLarens were involved in an asset forfeiture application brought by the National Director of Public Prosecutions (the NDPP) against one of its client’s, Kalmar Industries, in Port Elizabeth where the test of POCA was applied.

    When deciding on the issue the court looked at the provisions of Section 1 of POCA which defines an instrumentality of an offence as “any property which is concerned in the commission or suspected commission of an offence at any time before or after the commencement of this Act, whether committed within the Republic or elsewhere”.

    The court also looked at other cases one of which was The National Director of Public Prosecutions v Carolus 1999 (2) SACR 27 (C) wherein it was held that “property would only qualify as an instrumentality where it has been used as a means or instrument in the commission of an offence, or where it is otherwise involved in the commission of the offence”. In the present matter the property concerned was a lifting platform which was used to repair equipment in the Port Elizabeth Harbour.

    The NDPP alleged that the lifting platform had been stolen by Kalmar and was therefore the instrumentality of an offence. The court applied the test in Section 38 of POCA and found that the lifting platform could not have been the instrumentality of an offence and as such the requirements of POCA had not been met and the property could not be forfeited to the state.

    The application for a forfeiture order was dismissed and costs were awarded against the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

    Read the KalmarJudgement

     Warren Sundstrom