Have you ever named and shamed somebody online, or been tempted to, or encouraged somebody else to? You need to be careful with this, because as the name suggests the reason for posting it publicly is to lower people’s impression of the person. You have to be really careful, because in Australia not every state has truth as a defense to defamation. In other countries it’s on the internet, people can access the material and it might be defamation in another country.
So if you’re encouraging people to name and shame others online, be careful because you could be taken to have given them legal advice. If they rely on your advice, they could then sue you because it’s cost them to defend a defamation action and it could be tens of thousands of dollars. I was in a business group on Facebook the other day and I saw a lady had paid a man to take videos of her course and she was very unhappy. She said the videos were terrible quality and she’d paid him a lot of money.
He refused to refund her the money, so on the one hand she really wanted a refund, then on the other hand she was saying should I let everybody know what he’s done, should I explain how difficult he was to work with how unprofessional he was and should I tell you who it is. A lot of people said yes, I don’t want to use the same guy, but a lot of people said name and shame him. It’s a little bit like a mob mentality, the reality is that if you do go ahead and name and shame that guy even if he did completely mess it up you could be opening yourself up to defamation, so in that situation the answer to her question is No! don’t name and shame him.
Take him to court or go to mediation QCAT if you are in Queensland. The process is simple, it’s easy for small businesses to use, that’s really the solution rather than risking your own livelihood, your own money and your own reputation by being involved in the wrong side of a defamation action. So my advice is don’t name and shame and don’t encourage others to do it. My name is Cathryn Warburton and I’m the Legal Lioness.