Legally Brief: New Facebook defamation case may set new boundaries

How many of us have worked with survivors who have been embarrassed, insulted or even indirectly threatened on social media? From a legal perspective it isn’t always “illegal” to talk trash about someone and more often than not the abuser cloaks him/herself in the “First Amendment.”

Well, it may not be criminal, but now it might be legally actionable.

In what could be a precedent setting decision, an individual in Southern Indiana was awarded $6,000.00 in damages as a result of a successful defamation case based on a false Facebook post.

Scott County resident Zerlie Charles was awarded damages after the court found a posted remark about him to be overtly false and defamatory—and for the first time there has been a line drawn separating an individual’s first amendment right from a target’s right not to be defamed on social media.

The attorney in the case noted that he hopes the COA’s ruling and the subsequent award of damages in Charles’ favor sends a message that “you can’t just say anything you want on Facebook and get personal and make statements about other people that aren’t true without running the possibility of getting sued.”

Keep in mind this is civil, not criminal, so the challenge is to find an attorney willing to help survivors pursue their case.

We shall see if this remedy has legs. 


Kerry Hyatt Bennett

ICADV Legal Counsel