Social Media Law – Keep Family Matters Offline!

By Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Head of Social Media Law 

During divorce or custody matters where parents are fighting it is inevitable that emotions are going to run high. Sometimes people may turn to social media to vent or garner support against the other parent.  Not many people know that it is actually unlawful to publish any information which could reveal the identity of any child who is the subject of court proceedings in the Children’s Court or is a witness in the proceedings.  Initially this clause in the Children’s Act of 2005 was to protect the identity of children against being exposed in the newspapers or other formal media, however, it has application is social media too.

This clause states clearly that nobody, including a parent of a child, or even the child itself, can write about anything relating to the court battle which would reveal the identity of the child to the public at large. If a person does publish information they will be ordered by the court to remove it.  This means that any person involved in a custody battle needs to be very careful that they do not discuss anything relating to the case or their feelings about the case which could link it back to the children involved and reveal their identity.

Although people may feel that this limits their rights to free speech, in the circumstances the rights of the child are given the heavier weight. Keeping your “dirty laundry” off the internet will keep you out of trouble with the court as well and in your children’s good graces when they are old enough to value their privacy. Remember that the internet “never forgets” and what you write there is saved somewhere forever!

For more information on the above please contact:

Verlie Oosthuizen

Head of Social Media Law and Partner in the Employment & Pension Law department

+27 82 443 7668