USERS of popular social networking sites and other instant messaging services should be extremely careful about sharing some of the information that comes their way.
This was the advice given by Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal yesterday during a telephone interview. Seetahal was responding to a Facebook posting in the form picture which has been circulating warning of a young woman who is infected with HIV and allegedly infecting others by injecting herself and then others.
Seetahal said spreading information like that without any form of verification could land some in hot water as it was tantamount to defamation of character.
She added that the only defence would be to justify the spreading of the information by proving it to be true.
"If you are doing it in the public's interest to prevent infection, then that's okay. Now even if the person is infected, there could be defamation if there is no iota of truth in the second aspect that she does have the virus but is not infecting other people," Seetahal warned.
"Even if it is true that the person has the disease, if it is not true that they are infecting other people then the person would have no justification. You can't claim justification if you're not infecting people so it has to be two things that are true," Seetahal said.
The senior attorney said the issue of defamation arises as the information could bring the person into ridicule by right-thinking people.
"It is so obvious that if it is that you understand that you can transmit a message in the blink of an eye, you can damage people's reputations in the blink of an eye, too. And no matter how much you come afterwards and say what I said there was not true, you already said it," Seetahal said.
She said before anyone shares Facebook messages of that nature or any instant messages of the sort they should know if they were true and, if they were, then ask themselves if they would like these things to be said of them.
"Here it is you are speaking it to a multitude. Think of the damage. People should very well be much more careful. Let them put themselves in the shoes of the person they are writing about and then they might think twice," Seetahal said.