The recent boom in social media platforms brought with it a new dynamic into human relations. This can be observed primarily on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, which became platforms for various statements, unfortunately not all are always appropriate. More and more often we can detect insulting, demeaning and degrading communication that can lead to severe psychological stress and degradation of dignity. The targets of such posts are not just public figures but also ordinary citizens, numerous entrepreneurs, and companies.
As a reason for such behavior, we can first and foremost count the fact that it is way easier to express one’s opinion in partial intimacy on social media far away from direct interlocutors and the addresses, knowing full well that their response may never come. However, insults, false statements and accusations can unlawfully encroach upon a reputation and result in enormous damage that is difficult to repair.
Consequently, it is just that the above mentioned unlawful social media statements are dealt with within the judicial system and appropriately sanctioned. Still, it is important to keep in mind that not every statement (albeit insulting) is against the law. Freedom of speech although a constitutionally guaranteed right allows for some exceptions.
Furthermore, it needs to be considered that for a claim of damages to be successful the plaintiff needs to prove the existence and occurrence of damage (the extent of psychological damages and associated inconveniences). The latter is somewhat easier in cases where the injured party is a legal person, where recent case-law softened the limits for proof of harm (which was beforehand regarded as probatio diabilica) and defined that in case where the injured party is a legal person (as in a legal entity) psychological pain is not possible and is already conceptually excluded. It is therefore sufficient (within the meaning of the Article 183 of the Obligations Code) to show the unlawfulness of the statement and its negative effect on the reputation or the good name of a legal person. If it is established that the disputed statement falls under the objective criteria for an unlawful interference with the good name and the reputation of the legal entity, the claimant is entitled at least to a certain monetary compensation for such an infringement.
If you find yourself in any of the above-mentioned positions (as a statement maker or as the injured party) it is advisable to inform yourself about your options and adjust your next steps accordingly. Triggering legal proceeding is not always the best step forward, in practice we find that disagreements are often resolved at the pre-trial stage, which is certainly the most effective way of resolving a conflict for all parties involved.
Written by Ines Rostohar