Is  ‘prank’ a justification for spreading  fake news?

Is  ‘prank’ a justification for spreading  fake news?

Saheed Akinola esq

The prominence of social media comes with a lot of user-generated content being posted on various online platforms. For this, there seems to be an unclear and thin line between what is real or not and what was intended to be malicious or not.

Someone that is familiar with world of social media, especially Twitter, facebook, Linkedin and Instagram, would have come across a lot of fake news being peddled around but covered up as pranks when they are confronted with the truth. Hence, this question arises — Is the excuse of  “It’s just a prank”  a justification for spreading fake news and enough defence against a defamation suit in the court of law?

The fact that social media makes sharing and publication of information very easy cannot be denied by any rightful thinking person. This is part of freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution. However, there are limits to every human right-where your right ends, others begin.

The trend now is that many social medial users and bloggers make it their habits, with impunity, to cross the line between their right to express themselves freely and their duty no to harm others or their reputation and names.

Defamation can be defined as the act of injuring a person’s character, fame or reputation by false and malicious statements. Defamation can either be libel (written defamation) or slander (oral defamation).

To determine whether a tweet or post is defamatory in form and substance, it has to be shown that the news is a lie; there has to be actual harm to the person’s reputation, and there must be evidence of the post.

 In the eyes of the law, prank that is injurious to someone’s character will be viewed as a defamation. Therefore it is advisable for everyone when dealing with issue of prank because ignorance is not an excuse in law. It is also our candid advice that every fact should be crosschecked before posting it online or rebroadcasting it.

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