Victims have rights. And now, with social media trolling and defaming, it is important for users to know exactly how they can defend themselves from online bullying.
Yesterday, Joyce Molamu, who accused media personality Uyanda Mbuli of having an affair with her boyfriend, was sentenced to a R6 000 fine or face four months’ imprisonment for her Facebook post. Mbuli laid a crimen injuria case against Molamu for her defamatory statements.
Mbuli’s social media battle came to an end when the sentencing was handed down in the Midrand Branch Court.
The imprisonment was suspended for three years on condition that she does 350 hours of community service and commits to a treatment programme for a period of eight weeks.
Wearing an extravagant white dress and black stilettos, Molamu stood in court to hear her fate after being convicted of crimen injuria.
She was found guilty of defaming Mbuli by exposing her personal number on her Facebook page.
Mbuli and Molamu were involved in a nasty spat that began in July 2017, after Molamu took to Facebook and called Mbuli a “stupid b***h”, as well as accusing her of stealing her man, businessman King Maseko.
Mbuli was not present in court, but had this to say on the matter: “We are constantly forced to turn to the judiciary to protect our basic human rights to dignity, because we now live in an era where misrepresentation is just the order of the day and can be regarded as facts through social media and tabloids.
“I’ve been a victim of this for many years and I unfortunately can no longer allow it, as I take my responsibility as a role model to young women seriously.
“I do not want them to be constantly misled and follow in the wrong footsteps.”
Molamu refused to speak to media after her sentence was handed down.
Social media expert and author of the book Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones, Emma Sadleir, said defamation was a civil matter.
“If someone defames you, you just have to show that it was published, it referred to you and that it has hurt your reputation directly or indirectly,” she pointed out.
Sadleir said it didn’t matter whether the defamation occurred on a WhatsApp group or a Facebook post or whether it was shared among five people or 5 million, as long as a third party had seen it.
“The same rule applies to a user on social media as they do to a media house.”
Sadleir said that in the chain of publication, there were two ways of sharing content. “Often when we jump on the digital vigilantism bandwagon – to name and shame people on a racist post, for example – that’s okay if it’s clear from the way you’re sharing it that you disagree with the way it’s being shared; that you disagree with the content; and that you are not just stepping into the shoes of the person who shared it.”
She added that everyone who has the ability to stop a post from being published was in the chain of publication.
Sadleir said that in Mbuli’s case, Molamu had posted her cellphone number.
“In South African law you are responsible for the content you share… If I shared that, I would be doing more harm.”
Sadleir said many people were lost in the “myth of anonymity”, where people thought they could do whatever they wanted to online without consequences.
“(It’s like) they press a button and they are no longer a citizen of SA and the rules don’t apply to them anymore.
“We talk about the laws applying, but also any ethical obligations and contractual obligations. You can’t bite the hands that feed you,” Sadleir warned.
She said the anonymity myth was a big thing that saw ordinary people, and not just celebrities, getting into trouble.
She said in Mbuli’s case it was a matter of the State prosecuting someone she had laid charges against, and anyone was allowed to do that. Sadleir said hiding behind a computer screen was no longer the safe zone people thought it was. “I always talk about the billboard test. If you wouldn’t put (social media posts) it on a billboard next to a photo of yourself and the company you work for, then don’t put it online.
“The laws are the same and the disciplinary consequences are the same.”