Defamation Through Email

The number one form of written communication, the Email has become such a quick and easy medium so many of us are making the mistake of treating our emails as if it were spoken language, and sometimes with grave consequences. Traditionally, letters have offered us plenty of opportunity to re-think our comments because they require printing, signing, placing the letter in an envelope, attaching a stamp and putting in the post. Emails on the other hand are transmitted virtually instantaneously and usually, once sent, are irrevocable.

The hasty, ungrammatical and rash manner by which many emails are being sent tend to lead parties to say things which they would not normally commit to in writing or even say in face to face interaction with the other party. Occasionally this happens because of the deceptive distance between the sender and the recipient. They might be sitting miles away from one another but the instantaneous transmission makes this factor almost irrelevant. All this means is that those sending emails are dangerously prone to making remarks that turn out to be legally actionable. The ease by which emails can be forwarded, with sometimes even less thought and consideration by the person who forwards it, is even more worrying because repeating or forwarding of defamatory comments of others via email could be regarded by the law, as a ‘re-publication’ which means that the person who forwarded a defamatory email could be just as liable as the original publisher.

As emails travel across jurisdictions and national boundaries it means that the law governing any potential action may not be that of the defender's residence or domicile, which means that there is more scope of action by the victims of such email defamation.