Andrew Farley, a former student at Orange High School, found out the hard way, when teacher, Chris Mickle sued for defamation over a Tweet that Farley said, only went out to 50 or 50 people on Facebook on Twitter.
What Farley - and no, doubt many thousands of other ordinary folks either didn't know or didn't care - was that you only have to "publish" to one person to defame someone. Twitter equals publish and 50 equals more than one!
Said Wilbourn "As the internet makes a media mogul of any person with a smartphone, tablet or computer, the defamation battles that were once waged only against well-resourced media companies are being fought on new ground"
"It was never meant for public broadcast. This has really shaken me", said former student at Orange High School, Andrew Farley, who did not think to have anyone check his comments before tweeting .."Farley did not have the benefit of editors, subeditors and lawyers vetting his posts when he made defamatory comments about music teacher Christine Mickle to about 50 Facebook friends and 60 Twitter followers", wrote Milbourn.
The teacher sued for defamation and, and Farley was ordered by the NSW District Court to pay $105,000 in damages, forcing him into voluntary bankruptcy.
''I never meant to defame her,'' Farley said this week. ''It was never meant for public broadcast. This has really shaken me.''
The decision is not likely to create any new law, but does emphasise that even the man in the street, can be held to account for gratituous tweets, whether or not they know anything about defamation. Unlike professional journalists, whose employer will likely .....cover any damages bill, amateur publishers will be left to fend for themselves. A momentary lapse, a rush of blood, a brainsnap, a drunken moment, or an act of bravado can cost you.