You have the right to have your honour or reputation respected on the Internet and social media.
The Internet and social networks have become an inseparable part of our lives. We literally live tied to our phones, tablets, computers or any other device that allows us to always be connected with the rest of the world, although on many occasions it disconnects us from the immediate reality that surrounds us.
Like any other instrument or tool through which to have personal relationships or develop professional work, new technologies have given us many and very good options. During confinement, the internet has allowed us to be in contact with our loved ones, to keep ourselves informed promptly or to develop, in many cases, our work remotely, but like almost everything, these new technologies have a dark or toxic aspect.
The widespread belief in the things that are published without even doing a small test of veracity or verification, the dissemination of hoaxes or fake news, the lack of critical activity in the face of free statements that any unknown person writes, publishes, shares or disseminates and that many people they are delighted to receive information without filtering, criteria and knowledge of the subject.
During my time at university and then, in much greater depth, for more than 30 years of exercising my professional life as a lawyer in the Courts and outside of them, I learned not to judge without knowing the facts and versions, and above all to never let myself be carried away by opinions or prejudices.
I understand that this type of behavior of spreading news and uncontested opinions is more typical of despotic and inquisitorial attitudes that should not have a place in egalitarian, modern and healthy societies in which we intend to live.
Both because of my profile as consul of Denmark in Andalusia and Extremadura, and because of my profession as a lawyer, I am exposed to the opinions of many people. It is obvious that not everyone can like everyone all the time, but I have always defended the need to apply the main basis of honesty and professionalism in all areas of my personal and professional life. So the readers will allow me this time to be the example that illustrates the subject that we are going to deal with in this article.
A few weeks ago, a client of my office was dissatisfied because he was not being treated in the way he intended (not only outside working hours, but at untimely hours of the night) and because having paid for professional services he pretended to have the control of the time and organization of my office and its staff, he proceeded to publish in more than 40 Facebook groups that my office had deceived him, suggesting that we had stolen his money. He also accused me me of being a racist becasuse he was Romanian instead of German or English. Nothing is further from reality. In fact, the ignorance and arrogance of this client who got angry because I did not answer his Messenger messages (which is not an accepted way to address a client according to the rules of the Lawyers) from 9:00 p.m. onwards ( that we are obviously outside the office’s opening hours) decided to undertake a smear campaign against me throughout that night through social networks, especially on Facebook in every group as much as possible, but not only as a lawyer, but also in my capacity as Consul of Denmark.
This activity was duly reported immediately to the Police Station for insults, slander and harassment. Due to this complaint and the verification of the evidence that was provided, this person has been blocked on social networks and Google, that his insulting publications have been deleted as a first step, that he is being investigated as an alleged author of various crimes for falsely attempting against my honor.
But what is the right to honour? It is a right that every person has to maintain their dignity, good name or personal or social prestige. Likewise, to defame would be: to discredit someone, in word or in writing, publishing something against their good reputation.
For the right to honour of a person to be considered violated, the defamation must be serious enough to affect their tranquility and internal jurisdiction. Considerable dissemination is also required.
Common problems of the right to honour and new technologies. The defamation of honour on the internet can be produced by comments on a website, in a business directory, on a personal blog … Although the common thing is that it is on social networks, and especially on Facebook, as happened in the case I was commenting on at the beginning. With or without the will to offend, it is very common for a person to be defamed by violating their right to honour on the internet. Insults, imputation of false crimes, accusations of infidelity etc. They do not have to be tolerated by the person who suffers them since they are protected by law.
Freedom of expression vs right to honor. These are two fundamental rights, which are in constant opposition. But which one should prevail? None both are constitutional rights.
What the legislation does not solve, the courts do. To find out if the right to freedom of expression or the right to honor of the person concerned is worth more, each case must be examined.
At all times, freedom of opinion has as a limit the expressions that reach the degree of injurious or humiliating, and that, therefore, an idea or opinion about someone can be given without having to offend.
Crimes: libel and slander. You have to be careful with these issues, because the violation of the right to honor of another person can lead to the commission of a crime. The crime of injury is committed by defaming a person. And the crime of slander is the imputation of a crime with knowledge of its falsehood.
How do I defend my honour violated on the internet? We can choose two ways that both are compatible:
The pre-judicial route: You can require the person who is violating your honor to remove the offensive comments and publicly retract their words or you can require the social network or online platform to remove that content.
Depending on the severity, repetition and the intention to harm the person making those harmful comments, if you consider that your honor has been violated, you can claim judicially for damages, both economic and moral. Both by criminal means (slander or slander and harassment) and by civil means, by claim.
Suffice it to say that I appreciate the multitude of expressions of support and affection that I received as a result of such publications (it was the same text copied and pasted in all the Facebook forums that this person could); and on the other hand, to those who made supportive comments to this person, without knowing any of the parties involved, or obviously the facts of the matter, I hope they never have to find themselves in that situation and need a lawyer to defend them.