Defamation and Privacy Laws

Defamation law protects peoples’ reputation and good character. The laws of defamation serve to protect a person’s good name. If an untrue or misleading statement is made about a person in a public forum it can have a highly damaging effect.


In order for a statement to be defamatory, it needs to have been made publicly – the plaintiff’s reputation and standing in the community needs to have been tarnished as a result of the false statement. A defamatory publication can take on many forms, they can be written or verbal, published in the media or online, or could comprise texts, emails, social media posts and online reviews, to name just a few.

Gordon Legal acts for people whose reputation has been damaged by a defamatory publication or comment.

We also act for people who have been accused of making a defamatory comment to guide them through the process and to try and limit their exposure to a potential legal claim.

In some cases, defendants may seek to dispute an allegation of defamation made against them on the basis that what was published was true, it was an honestly held opinion, or they were otherwise legally permitted to make the statement.

Privacy legislation in Australia has been put into place to prevent wrongful disclosure and misuse of an individual’s private information. These statutory laws work alongside the law concerning breach of confidence.


In some instances, it may be appropriate for a person to notify the Privacy Commissioner to investigate an unlawful inference with privacy. In other instances, it may be more advantageous for an individual to pursue a legal remedy for breach of confidence.

Gordon Legal acts for people whose privacy has been unlawfully interfered with and / or whose confidential information has been disclosed without authorisation.

Our People

Our lawyers have considerable experience in defamation claims and are highly skilled in advising clients on how to protect their reputation and private information. We have acted for well-known media and business figures seeking to protect their reputation. We have also acted for small business owners who have had their reputation tarnished by defamatory statements made by others. We also act for everyday people who have had their reputation and character unfairly attacked and / or privacy unlawfully interfered with.

James Naughton
James Naughton
Principal Lawyer
James Naughton
Principal Lawyer

James is a highly regarded commercial lawyer. He has successfully brought claims against Australia’s largest banks, stockbrokers and financial institutions. He has also acted for unions subject to investigations by government agencies and has advised unions, industry superannuation fund directors and corporations on regulatory, governance and directorship issues.

James regularly presents on professional obligations and duties at industry conferences, and has provided his expert analysis in the media.

James also acts in estate dispute matters and testator’s family maintenance claims.

Fiona Rothville
Associate

Fiona is an experienced litigator who practises across the Industrial Law and Commercial Law teams. Fiona represents unions and employees in a range of employment and industrial matters, including in proceedings brought by industrial regulators. Fiona acts in various commercial and consumer disputes and provides representation in Coronial Inquests in respect of professional conduct. Fiona has previously worked at the Fair Work Commission as a Conciliator and an Associate to a Deputy President and has a background in the union movement. Fiona is a volunteer and former board member of the Fitzroy Legal Service.

Respecting your privacy and protecting your reputation

With the rise of social media, people are publishing more material on the internet which can potentially expose them to the same defamation laws that apply to more traditional publishers.  Defamatory statements can be made on social media, including in chatrooms, on Facebook and on Twitter. In some cases, even re-posting a defamatory statement by another person could land a social media user in trouble.

If you think that you have been defamed, you should seek legal advice quickly, as there may be options open to you to limit the spread of any damage caused. There are also strict time limits that apply to making defamation claims in Australia. If you think you have been defamed you should seek advice on the time limits that may apply to your circumstances.

If you have been accused of defamation it is also important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

FAQs

I think I have been defamed, what should I do?

The first thing you should do is make a record. Take a copy of the publication that concerns you.  If you have been defamed online, take a screenshot or video of the defamatory content. Material can be posted and then taken down online quickly. If you don’t keep a record of the defamatory content, there is no guarantee that you will be able to locate it later.

Your record of the defamatory statement would ideally also include the information published around, or linked to the page or statement of concern. Your lawyer will need to review this record in order to give you advice about the strength of your claim.

Do the defamation laws apply to posts on social media?

Yes. Defamation laws do not just cover what is published about people in traditional media, such as newspapers or magazines. About half of all defamation claims filed in Courts in Australia relate to digital defamation. A large number of defamation disputes that don’t make it to Court also relate to what is said on social media, or has been texted or emailed to people.

Can companies or not-for-profits be defamed?

Defamation laws are usually used to seek to protect the reputation of individuals. However, the laws can cover some small companies and not-for-profits, in some cases. Defamation laws can also cover circumstances where an individual’s reputation is very closely linked to the reputation of a company, in some instances. If any of the above may apply to, you, you should seek legal advice.

We are here to help

If you need to speak to a lawyer about a Defamation or privacy issue, contact us anytime.

Call 1300 58 46 26

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