With the increasing prevalence of social media, issues of harassment and defamation have become more widespread than ever. In response to these challenges, legal systems have created various remedies for victims of online defamation. In Singapore, two of these approaches are suing for defamation and making an application to court under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA). In this article, we will go over the main distinctions between filing a defamation lawsuit and using POHA to deal with online harassment.
Defamation lawsuits: Pursuing damages and costs
The act of making false remarks that damage an individual’s reputation is referred to as defamation. A person may decide to file a defamation lawsuit against the person who has defamed them. Depending on the outcome, the plaintiff may be entitled to the following:
- Compensatory damages: The plaintiff may be given money by the court to make up for the harm done to their reputation and any associated financial losses.
- Punitive damages: This refers to the payment made on top of compensatory damages by a defendant if he is found guilty of deliberately making the false remarks even though he knew that they were untrue in order to achieve a personal gain or advantage.
- Costs: The successful party in a defamation lawsuit is entitled to recover part of their legal costs from the unsuccessful party, which can help offset the expenses incurred during the legal proceedings.
However, it is worth noting that pursuing a defamation case can be a lengthy and costly process. Moreover, to get the removal of material online, one must apply for an interim injunction, which can be costly.
Protection from Harassment Act (POHA): Swift removal of material with limited damages
The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) seeks to protect individuals from being victims of stalking or harassment, whether in real life or online. Under section 3 of POHA, among other sections, it is unlawful to abuse, threaten, or insult another person with the aim to cause or to cause harassment, alarm, or distress (whether by actions, words, or other means of communication).
Although it was not designed to explicitly handle online defamation, POHA may be utilised to quickly resolve instances of damaging internet postings. The following are some key features of POHA:
- Swift removal of material: POHA enables victims to seek expedited court orders for the removal of damaging online content. This can be especially useful in preventing the spread of damaging information online.
- Limited damages: Unlike defamation lawsuits, POHA does not provide financial compensation or damages to the victim. Instead, it focuses on obtaining relief by putting an end to the harassment and deleting the offensive material.
- Cost–effective: Filing a POHA application is typically less expensive than filing a full-fledged defamation lawsuit. People who cannot or do not want to bear the high costs of traditional litigation may find this beneficial.
POHA for online harassment: The case of Xia Xue
A prominent example of using POHA to address online harassment is the case of Xia Xue, a well-known influencer in Singapore. As is widely reported, DC Law LLC acted for Xia Xue against certain posts on Facebook that targeted her with harassing content. By making use of POHA, Xia Xue was able to secure swift removal of the posts, which provided her with relief from the ongoing harassment.
In conclusion, there are several options for dealing with online harassment and damaging content, including defamation lawsuits and the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA). Defamation lawsuits can result in monetary compensation, but they can be time-consuming and expensive processes. On the other hand, POHA does not provide monetary compensation to the victim but offers a quicker method for getting damaging internet information removed.
If you are faced with online harassment or internet defamation, you should seek the advice of online defamation lawyers in Singapore. They would be able to help you determine the most appropriate course of action. Here at DC Law LLC, we are experts in defamation law and have years of experience under our belt.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with us today!