Businessman turns to court after rape claims on social media
The Cape Town-based applicant, who is not named, earlier this month obtained an urgent order issued by Acting Judge Anthony Millar.
The administrators of @HELPSURVIVORS were ordered to delete these tweets from all media platforms, apologise and acknowledge that the tweets were defamatory and hurtful towards the applicant.
@HELPSURVIVORS explained that it used Twitter as a platform to offer victims of gender-based violence the opportunity to publicly air their grievances and to give them a chance to speak out.
But the applicant said allegations about him were false and he stood to lose contracts as a result, noting that some of his clients had already withdrawn their accounts from his business.
A tweet was posted on September 4 using the Twitter handle @HELPSURVIVORS to the effect that the applicant had raped the “victim” who had forwarded the story to the respondents.
She claimed that they were returning from a party, that she was drunk, and that she was raped by the businessman.
The applicant approached an administrator of the Twitter handle who promised to follow-up on the issue. The applicant told the administrator that he was “trying to stay calm” about the incident “which never happened”.
When nothing happened, his lawyer wrote a letter of demand to the administrators of the account to retract the false posts and to apologise to him.
He said they refused to comply, and so he turned to court for help.
“I am the sole director of my company. Thus, to be called a rapist is defaming to my person and integrity.”
He told the court that, among others, he was part of a group which were branding and marketing a record label with a well-known entity, but following the false accusations against him, he was removed from this group.
He also lost a contract with NetFlix, in terms of which he was going to be the presenter of a show.
He now stood to lose a job offer because of the allegations. He said being labelled a rapist on social media infringed on his rights.
“This defamation has caused me stress and my family is not taking it well. I am also worried about the health of my elderly parents. I have lost friends and reliable people I worked with within the social media digital space. A childhood friend told me he could no longer associate with me because of these allegations.”
The respondents did not file papers to explain their side of the story.