Think emojis don’t count when it comes to defamatory comments online? Think again!
Recently the District Court of New South Wales determined that an emoji could convey a defamatory meaning. In the case of Burrows v Houda  NSWDC 485, proceedings were brought by Zali Burrows against Adam Houda in relation to posts made on Twitter in July 2019 and May 2020.
Ms Burrows made the claim that words and images in the tweets gave rise to defamatory imputations. One of Mr Houda’s tweets linked to an article in the Herald which reported a judge’s suggestion that Ms Burrows’ conduct be referred to the Law Society for potential disciplinary action, which received a number of replies. One of these replies stated “July 2019 story. But what happened to her since?” Mr Houda responded with a ‘zipper-mouth face’ emoji. 🤐
Ms Burrows asserted that the tweet conveyed a range of false and defamatory claims, including that she had been disciplined due to misconduct.
In determining the matter, her Honour Justice Gibson confirmed that:
“As is sometimes the case with social media posts, the meanings may be gleaned from pictures as well as words, and where liability for publication arises from more than one post, from the dialogue which ensues.”
Justice Gibson referred to the online dictionary Emojipedia and said that the zipper-mouth emoji means ‘a secret’ or ‘stop talking’ “in circumstances where a person impliedly knows the answer but is forbidden or reluctant to answer.” In the context of Mr Houda’s other tweets, the implication of the emoji that Ms Burrows had acted improperly was pretty clear.
Her Honour noted that “the ordinary reasonable reader of tweets derives the meaning of the imputation from the circumstances surrounding the tweet,” and was satisfied that most social media users would make adverse assumptions about Ms Burrows given that the tweets were accompanied by an article that had the effect that Ms Burrows had acted unsatisfactorily.
This decision is especially notable, not only as it set a precedent that an emoji alone can be defamatory, but also because it is the first instance where an Australian Court has considered an emoji in written communications. Given the increasing use of emojis in day-to-day life, it certainly won’t be the last.
The Burrows matter is a well-timed reminder to pause and consider before posting comments that could be construed as being defamatory on social media, even when comments are limited to an emoji.
If you believe you have been subject to defamatory comments, with or without emojis 😆, the experienced team at Enterprise Legal can help you to weigh up your options.
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What’s your most visited website? If it’s Google or Facebook, you’re certainly not alone with Google accounting for more than 98% of search traffic originating from Australian mobile users in 2018. But as the discussions between the tech giants and the Australian Government over a proposed media code heats up, that all may be about to change. This week, Google has stepped up and threatened to pull Australian access to the search engine if the proposed revenue-sharing media laws go ahead. On the other hand, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said that it is “inevitable” that tech giants Google and Facebook will pay for Australian news.
So what is actually going on?
The proposed law states that Australian media outlets can negotiate individually or collectively with Facebook and Google over payment for content used and shared on the tech giants’ sites, with other platforms potentially to be added over time. That’s right, the laws would require the companies to pay Australian media companies to link to the content in searches. Google says that this would “dismantle a free and open service that’s been built to serve everyone.”
ScoMo’s response? “We don’t respond to threats.”
It’s no secret that traditional media companies in Australia have been struggling in recent years with hits to revenue streams such as subscriptions and advertising, and part of this is because of Google and Facebook. Shockingly, for every $100 spent on online advertising in Australia, excluding classifieds, nearly one-third goes to Google and Facebook.
In the course of their investigation, the ACCC found that news outlets lack bargaining power when it comes to negotiating with the tech giants over compensation for content publishing, in part because the outlets rely so heavily on Google and Facebook to reach readers.
If Google does say "cya" to Australia, it’s going to mean more than saying gday to a new search engine. It could have huge implications for your business.
Many businesses (perhaps even yours) rely heavily on digital advertising through Google, with the digital advertising market for Google search in Australia valued at around $4.3 billion per year. Google now accounts for more than 51% of all online advertising. If Google is gone, the way that businesses advertise is going to have to go through a dramatic change. Your advertising dollars won’t stretch as far, as you’re going to have to channel advertising across multiple platforms.
Software and Hardware:
Do you use Android devices or Google Maps for your business? What about Google Docs or Google Drive? This added reliance on Google could leave your business stranded if Google decides to exit the Australian market.
If Google were to exit the Australian market, you’re going to have to start over when it comes to establishing your online presence. Not only will you be unable to monitor Google’s content relating to your business, but you’re going to have to start over on other platforms. Think you know how to best optimise your keywords to work with Google? Well you may need to learn how the algorithm works on multiple other search engines.
It’s not all bad news! If Google exits the Australian market, they will create space for new players to both enter the scene and increase their own business offerings. From developing new platforms to increasing existing business offerings to offer services that help in a new-Google-less world, the opportunities could very well be endless!
At the moment as negotiations between the Australian Government, Google, and Facebook continue, all parties are on a mission to win supporters. Google has raised the ante by including a message and link at the top of every page.
On the other side, the ACCC have announced that they may bring a third lawsuit against Google for misuse of market power in the advertising sector and breaching competition law and the Government have made it clear that they intend to continue the fight.
No matter what side you’re on, there probably will be huge implications for your business as the fight continues to ramp up!
So you have followed our top tips for entering into a commercial or retail lease, but things haven’t exactly gone to plan. How do you know what the next step is? And how do you know when it is time to get expert lawyers involved?
At Enterprise Legal, it is our view that most disputes are best handled early on before little problems become big problems. Whether you are a landlord or tenant, the best way to resolve a lease dispute is to ensure that it is handled properly from the start.
The following are ‘red flags’ that indicate that it’s likely time to chat with the Enterprise Legal team:
If you are a tenant and have been issued with a Notice to Remedy Breach, stop what you’re doing and come chat to a lawyer! Breach notices need to be issued in a particular way to be valid under law, and the reality is that most landlords (and even some lawyers) don’t get this right. If a Notice is incorrect, it will likely be invalid. If you engage a lawyer at this point not only can you ensure that any issues with a Notice can be resolved, but you may also find that your lawyer can help you negotiate an outcome with your landlord.
If you are a landlord and need to issue a Notice, don’t go at it alone! It is so easy to make a mistake when preparing and issuing a Notice to Remedy Breach so it is worth engaging a lawyer so that you can ensure that everything is correct. If a Notice is not valid you will ultimately end up spending more time and money than you would have if you had a chat to a lawyer to begin with.
While disagreements between parties may just seem like straightforward interpersonal concerns at first, we all know that these things can escalate quickly! By chatting to a lawyer early on, you may be able to resolve your concerns, put your mind at ease, and ultimately avoid a prolonged dispute. Sometimes a simple letter from a law firm can make a real difference. If it doesn’t, you will have a record of your concerns and can point to your attempts to resolve issues later on down the track, which will assist your prospects significantly!
Landlords - hold your horses! Locking out a tenant is pretty serious, and you need to make sure that you have followed the appropriate steps before you escalate matters. If you don’t, you are at a real risk of ‘repudiating’ the lease (which is bad!) and being liable for the tenant’s damages.
Tenants, if you are locked out, it is time to chat to a lawyer pronto! You do have options here, including obtaining an injunction to regain access to the premises. If you are unlawfully locked out, you may be entitled to claim damages from your landlord or claim that they have repudiated the lease. Either way it is imperative to make sure that you act quickly!
If you want to terminate your lease early, there may be options available to you. If you want to terminate and minimise your risk, you’re going to want to speak with a lawyer first to work out how to properly terminate your lease, minimise your risk, and perhaps even resolve the concerns leading to termination of the lease.
Maybe something relating to your lease just doesn’t feel right and you want to get a sense as to whether it’s okay or not. The law is a confusing beast, and without the experience and expertise of a lawyer, it might not always be clear if something is okay and if you can proceed. If you are ever unsure, it may be a sign that it is time to chat to the Enterprise Legal team. If something is amiss, we will be able to quickly identify any issues and whether something can be done, or alternatively be able to set your mind at ease.
While you can’t always avoid a dispute, the best way to avoid significant costs and a lengthy legal battle is to act quickly. To resolve your concerns swiftly, engage the expert Enterprise Legal Disputes team to help you with your lease dispute.