With the advent and growth of social media, it seems to many that we are being bombarded by Blogs; You tube and Vimeo clips, regurgitated jokes which may or may not offend and make no distinction as to the recipients – jokes about disabilities can end up on the Facebook timeline of a family affected by severe disability or illnesses; images of mutilation can invade comments sections on posts unrelated to the diversionary images.
Further, in professional communications, comments on articles and publications, it seems that the lid of professionalism has been burst open with the small force of a finger pressed on the trackpad or mouse whilst cursor hovers above the ‘send’ ‘comment’ or ‘publish’ icon. Gone are the days when esteemed academics would write their opinions in a monthly journal, to find the next month a similarly well thought out article with intelligent counter arguments would be published. Now, we have ‘instant’ thoughts, instant replies and instant criticisms, which due to the fact that the principles of analysis haven’t actually changed even with the advent of the availability and ease of online and instant commentary, are often valueless.
How do we respond to these types of invasions; slanders; defamations and downright sloppy social behavior?
As a law firm approached often by existing and potential clients with complaints of defamation, we often have to balance the following:
Type of Violation = Defamation / Slander / Insult / Wrongful Act V
Costs of Litigation & Time and Effort V
Potential Success & Potential Remedies available upon successful claim
Almost as quick as the speed of a defamatory statement, a complaint for defamation can be prepared and filed with the police in Thailand. At such point, the prescription period of 3 months from the act of defamation is met. Thereafter, if the police and public prosecutor do not pursue the case, the case may be pursued privately.
Defamation is a criminal offence and therefore attracts criminal penalties.
In Thailand, many non-Thais fail to understand the Thai meaning of defamation, or the significant power of the legislation relating to it. They often imagine that the defences available in their own country – ‘free speech’; ‘telling the truth even if it is insulting’ somehow apply to the unique jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Such people are mistaken, and often only find out just how mistaken they are when they are summonsed to travel to the nearest convenient court of the plaintiff.
In this social media landscape, Internet Trolls’ who sow discord on the internet by starting arguments or trying to upset people, are now as common as thieves. Such Trolls attempt to bait their targets into replying to deliberately provocative communications, and the danger in a reply being given is that the original ill thought out comments of the Internet Troll are somehow legitimized by the fact a reply has been offered. Almost like legitimizing a terrorist activity by attempting to negotiate.
As such behavior continues to have an impact on the daily lives of innocent citiziens going about their business, certain countries ramp up their legislation or plan to in order to deal with this phenomenon. In the UK, online harassment is currently being analysed as to the possibility of applying 2-year jail sentences for convicted violaters.
In Thailand, there are already harsh laws to deal with these issues, although the location of the offence can often be muddied by the internet. The Criminal Code, the Computer Crime Act, and the Civil and Commercial Code all have some provisions, which can aid an injured party.
Our advice when faced with Internet Trolls is to lie in wait until the law is flagrantly breached. Exercise your right ‘not to reply’ with knowledge and wisdom. When the laws are breached, take swift action, consult your advisers, file reports, pay the small court fee, and sit back until the trial date. It may well be you have been provided with an apology and compensation long before then, if your Internet Troll wishes to remain a free citizen.