Innovation and Reform: Applying New Zealand's Public Interest Defence in Defamation to Social Media and Blogs

46 Pages Posted: 14 May 2020

See all articles by Ruiteng Liu

Ruiteng Liu

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: September 2, 2019

Abstract

The proliferation of social media and the rise of 'citizen journalists' were one of many reasons why the Court of Appeal in Durie v Gardiner recognised the existence of a public interest defence of responsible communication to defamation in New Zealand. The courts, however, are beginning to take a restrictive interpretation of the criteria under responsible communication to the detriment of social media users and bloggers, following experiences in England and Canada. This paper argues that the defence should be reformed for a social media age by adopting a standard based on reasonableness along Hilary Young’s model in Canada, replacing the criteria under responsible communication for all types of media in New Zealand. It then explains how a sliding scale derived from the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 can be incorporated into the defence. The paper also recommends the creation of multiple voluntary codes for social media which can inform the meaning of reasonableness and the inclusion of statements of reply as a relevant factor. It concludes by offering an example of where reasonableness can lead to a different result from responsible communication.

Keywords: defamation, "public interest defence", "social media", blogs

JEL Classification: K00, K13

Suggested Citation

Liu, Ruiteng, Innovation and Reform: Applying New Zealand's Public Interest Defence in Defamation to Social Media and Blogs (September 2, 2019). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper No. 21/2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3599683 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3599683

Ruiteng Liu (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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