Be careful what you post online

A drunk man speaks a sober mind, they say. But be weary about what you post on social media this festive season.

Many people will be glued to their phones, posting their fabulous vacations or venting their frustrations for the most part of the season.

But experts warn that your negative comments will only lead to more problems.

Social media law expert from The Digital Law Company, Emma Sadleir, says that people can’t blame bad behaviour tweets on alcohol because it won’t fly in court.

140616w Nuus- Johannesburg- Penny Sparrow during an interview with News24 in johannesburg foto Felix Dlangamandla (FOTO24/GAUTENG)

“We have got an international case law that says that if you are a prolific tweeter and you get drunk and make comments, it’s like going out with a loaded gun. You should foresee that you have the ability to make stupid comments and you can’t blame the alcohol,” Sadlier says.

“So you can’t show that you lack legal capacity because you are drunk, if you are a prolific tweeter when you go out with your phone in your pocket,” she says.

According to experts, everything that happens on social media can be used against you. They advise South Africans to be “good humans”.

“It’s one thing to be embarrassing and funny, but as soon as it crosses the line to anything illegal, hypocritical, abusive or anything that you wouldn’t want your boss to see I would say be very careful.

“Any evidence on social media can be used in court cases or disciplinary hearings and can be shared on social media where people are named and shamed. So there is that embarrassment factor,” says Sadleir.

Former estate agent Penny Sparrow was found guilty of hate speech in the Equality Court and ordered to pay R150 000 to the Adelaide and
Oliver Tambo Foundation after she labelled black people as “monkeys” in a Facebook rant in 2016.

That same year, convicted racist Vicki Momberg was found guilty of four counts of crimen injuria for using the k-word 48 times as she racially abused a police officer in 2016.

The incident was captured on camera and went viral.


According to the digital law experts, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

“So you can’t complain about the company you work for, your boss, customers or suppliers,” she says.

The legal charge would be that social media users have breached the law of good faith or are not acting in the best interest of the company.

There are also many defamation cases that have been in the public eye such as Trevor Manuel vs the EFF, Jacob Zuma vs Derek Hanekom, Basetsana Kumalo and Jackie Phamotse and Uyanda Mbuli v Joyce Molamu.

“To defame someone means you publish what is said to either three people in a WhatsApp group or three million people on Twitter. It would be that you refer to the person directly or indirectly.

“You have got to publish the comment and then you have got to ruin their reputation,” says Sadlier.

The most common social media crime is crimen injuria when a user infringes on someone else’s dignity, which includes cyber bullying, throwing shade, naming and shaming.

2018 07 26 Jackie Phamotse leaving Randburg Magistrate Court.PHOTO: Mduduzi Ndzingi

These types of cases include homophobia, racism and sharing someone’s pictures without their consent.

By Nokuthula Zwane
Zwanen@156.38.205.90

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