Defamation on social media: A case study of Hartland v APC Marketing
30 Jun 2023
Explore a notable case of defamation on social media as the Western Cape High Court intervenes, prohibiting a roofing contractor from making defamatory statements and requiring the removal of social media posts. Learn about the court’s orders and the impact on the involved parties.
In a recent court case, known as Hartland v APC Marketing, the Western Cape High Court addressed a situation where a roofing contractor, Dakman, defamed a construction company on social media after being removed from a project. The court intervened and issued an interdict, prohibiting Dakman from making further defamatory statements and requiring the removal of the posts from social media.
Let’s set the context: Hartland is a property development company that focuses on the construction of the Hartland Lifestyle Estate Development in Mosselbay. Dalmar is responsible for building the homes within this development.
Dalmar had appointed Dakman as a sub-contractor for roofing work during specific phases of the project. However, Dalmar terminated its contract with Dakman due to disputes regarding the quality of Dakman’s workmanship and productivity.
Feeling aggrieved, Dakman took to social media platforms to air their grievances. They posted a public notice/corrective statement on a WhatsApp group with around 300 members in the Herolds Bay area. Additionally, they made statements on Facebook, claiming that the developers were compromising safety by cutting corners in the development process.
As a response, Hartland and Dalmar (referred to as the Applicants) urgently approached the court seeking specific relief:
An interdict to prevent the respondents (Dakman) from making any further allegations against the applicants through any form of statement, including social media posts.
A directive for the respondents to remove the defamatory publications.
A directive for the respondents to issue a retraction and apology to the applicants for defaming them, causing harm to their reputation and dignity, on the platforms where the offending statements were published.
The applicants argued that Dakman’s publications constituted defamation, warranting the relief sought. The court agreed with the applicants’ contentions, stating that Dakman had made baseless claims on social media regarding the quality of work at the Hartland Lifestyle Estate Development with the intention of pressuring the applicants to pay their outstanding invoices.
In conclusion, this case highlights the legal consequences of defamatory actions on social media. The court’s decision to issue an interdict, remove offending publications, and demand a retraction and apology serves as a deterrent for similar behaviour in the future.
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Roy Bregman is an accredited divorce mediator and specialises in: - Drafting of antenuptial and postnuptial contracts; - Winding up of deceased estates; - Arbitration, mediation and alternative dispute resolution;...
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