Freedom of Speech v. The Defamation Laws

Whilst Australian residents may believe they are protected from defamation under the Australian Defamation Laws, many are unaware of the loop holes in which they have no legal grounds to defend their reputation if defamed. Australian Defamation Laws protect from domestic defamation, however they do not protect from foreign defamation via .com websites hosted in the United States of America.


Unfortunately Australians can be defamed by websites hosted in foreign nations such as the USA where defamation laws clash with policy such as The First Amendment. The First Amendment Ombudsmen Paul McMasters believes that “there is much unsettled and unsettling about an area of the law that so profoundly affects how journalists do their job and how people get their news. On the one hand, libel suits are a necessary recourse for those who believe that they have been wronged by the press. On the other hand, even the threat of a libel suit can serve as a subtle censor of the press.”


Until defamation laws overrule the Freedom of Speech, it is important for Australian’s to be proactively protecting their online reputation. Forms of online reputation protections are SEO (Search Engine Optimisation or Link Building), Press release & article distribution, Directory Submissions and Google Ad words.


If you have been defamed domestically, you have a number of options at your disposal. These options will involve court proceedings to seek injunctive relief against the publishers and distributors of defamatory material, and can result in the removal of content and retractions.


For businesses it is more important to be employing pre-emptive measures as they have less protection from defamation. This is where modern businesses see the need for Online Reputation Management as an extension of Risk Management.


In summary, for protection against defamation there is the need for a universal law covering interpersonal and online domains. Without one, domestic defamation laws are like shark nets; protected in some areas, left wide open in others.

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