Trinidadian High Court Judge makes landmark judgement in social media libel case

In Trinidad and Tobago, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad delivered an 18-page judgment in a landmark case, brought by a couple falsely accused by their neighbour of sexually abusing their children in a series of Facebook posts. As no local laws address matters like these, Justice Seepersad considered social media cases in Commonwealth jurisdictions to develop a local position on the issue.

The law recognises that a libel is occasioned when a defamatory statement is made by way of written or printed words, or in some other permanent form which relates to the claimant and which has been communicated to a person other than the claimant.

The judge found that social media users, too, are subject to libel laws. People are free to say what they like, but the line is drawn when what they say can cause harm and cannot be justified. The judge concluded that ‘the Claimants have, on a balance of probabilities, established that the Defendant published words about them which were defamatory and their claim in libel hereby succeeds.  Accordingly, the Defendant is to pay to the Claimants damages and costs which shall be assessed by a Master in Chambers.’