October 25, 2016
Defamation and harassment laws should be changed to make legal action and criminal charges easier in the age of social and digital media, according to a public relations and reputation management specialist.
Managing Director of Mercer PR Lyall Mercer is writing to all state and federal attorneys-general and shadow attorneys-general requesting a review of the current laws and an inquiry into how they can be better enforced
He said the trend of attacking people on social media is “out of control”.
“We are not talking about robust debate or freedom of speech, but about reputations being damaged and people getting hurt,” he said.
“We have defined the word ‘social’ as meaning anything goes, when in any other forum this abuse would be dealt with by the law.
Mr Mercer said while the debate rages around Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, the abuse in the social media space is far more widespread and harmful.
“There are too many who freely spread lies about people and companies, abuse those they know nothing about, comment on legal cases before the court – potentially jeopardising fair trials – and cause a great deal of anguish for others.”
He said it is time for authorities get tough on people who harass, abuse and defame others on social media, and that current laws make it too hard to investigate, prosecute and take defamation action.
To those who think he is over-reacting, the public relations strategist explained, “I’ve heard first-hand from many people who have spent years building a company or personal reputation, only to have gutless people who have never achieved anything themselves, destroy what they’ve worked for.”
“Everyone makes mistakes, but no one deserves to be attacked publicly in this way.”
He said that if the law is not tight enough, legislators should fix this.
“Police should take abuse and harassment seriously, and defamation laws should be made easier to uphold in the social media space.”