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Social media rants could have consequences, says attorney

Published:Sunday | May 2, 2021 | 12:16 AMShereita Grizzle/Staff Reporter

Using social media to air grouses or speak out against colleagues and business associates could have legal ramifications. Recently, a lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court against popular dancehall artiste Jada Kingdom by her former management company, Pop Style Music. In a statement to the media, Pop Style Music accused the WiN singer of spewing “libellous bile and defamatory untruths” against the company’s CEO in an Instagram Live session. This is just one of many instances in which online comments have been met with adjudication.

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, attorney-at-law Sean-Christopher Castle, while declining to comment on any particular case, ongoing or pending, said that before an entertainer takes to social media to voice frustrations regarding a colleague or business associate, he or she should be mindful of the consequences.

“Jamaica’s Defamation Act was amended to make provision for electronic communication and the Internet as a form of electronic communication, and so in the digital era, using social media platforms in a reckless or negligent manner puts one at risk of being accused of defamation. Entertainers should always be guided in determining whether a post or other content communicated via social media is defamatory,” he said.

Castle said there are several questions one should ask oneself when making a post. “In determining the latter, one should ask themselves these questions: Is the information contained in it factually accurate? Would the content tend to lower the reputation of the person who the information directly or indirectly refers to in the estimation of right-thinking members of society? Would the content tend to cause others to shun, avoid, or otherwise eschew the person who the content is about, and would the content expose the person who it is about to hatred, contempt, or ridicule?” he shared.

Quoting internationally renowned rapper Drake, the attorney-at-law explained that with Jamaica’s defamation act no longer distinguishing libel and slander, artistes should be wary that though social media posts and live-video sessions can be taken down upon reconsideration by the entertainer, there is the high possibility that the damage may have already been done.

“Though we may see doing an Instagram Live or even being in a room on Clubhouse as fleeting or temporary, artistes and other public figures should remember the possibility of screen recordings and screenshots. In the words of Drake, who said ‘the only thing I fear is a headshot or a screenshot’, one should be mindful that being a public figure heightens the possibility of such a circumstance (screenshots and screen recordings) as the podcasts, blogs, vlogs, fans, detractors, and those who fall into the general audience are just waiting for the next hot topic,” Castle said.

With that, Castle stressed the importance of entertainers and other public figures delegating responsibility for the different aspects of their careers. He explained that with artistes often being led by their passion, it would work to their benefit to have people to advise them against potentially damaging acts.

“Though their art form is one based on passion, leading them to have outspoken personalities, it is often best for them to vent their frustrations through the said art form, the music. And even then, it is advisable that they be cautious. Any recording artiste that aims to have true success in their industry should have a team of persons around them who work with or for them or at the very least have them on retainer as consultants. These persons range from a manager to a booking agent to a stylist and one of the most important, a publicist,” he said.

He said publicists are integral in order to avoid possible “career and image-tarnishing pitfalls”.

“Publicists help artistes by guiding them to have enough foresight in their career. This may include but isn’t limited to warning and/or training them against career and image- tarnishing pitfalls. It is the sad reality that many artistes in the reggae-dancehall industry do not have a publicist, and that may be for various reasons, financial or otherwise. But the existence of a publicist combined with the consultation of an attorney-at-law would protect these persons [from] themselves,” he said.