Special to DadsDivorce.com
For exes at war, social networking sites can also become a platform for insults, arguments, and (sometimes untrue) opinions to be broadcast publicly and quickly.
Many men will have found themselves on the receiving end of online abuse from ex-wives who are either acting in frustration, looking for sympathy/support, or simply trying to maliciously tarnish their ex’s reputation.
Because social media is so well used, one comment can be seen and shared by several people in a matter of minutes, and if it concerns delicate subjects such as your parenting skills, then it can be extremely upsetting and frustrating to see it go viral and know that others are reading and potentially judging you.
Dealing with online abuse that you believe leads to defamation of your character can be difficult as it is generally considered to be a civil wrong rather than a crime.
However, there are things that you can do in order to protect yourself and improve the situation. Here are a few:
Know the Facts
Knowing the facts about defamation of character and how it relates to social media will help you to assess your situation and decide whether or not it is possible or practical to legally pursue your case.
One legal website defines defamation of character as “an all-encompassing term that covers any statement that hurts someone’s reputation.”
If this is a spoken statement it is referred to as slander. If it is a written statement, which would cover anything written on a social networking site, then it is referred to as libel.
The law regarding this varies by state, but generally in order to pursue a lawsuit or sue someone who is writing defamatory statements online, you need to be able to prove that their statement is untrue and that it has hurt you or your reputation in some way.
This can be tricky because even if a statement upsets or offends you if it is merely another person’s opinion then they are entitled to express it through the Freedom of Speech Act.
The only way you can fight against it is if they are presenting it to be a fact that you can prove is false.
So, for example, if your ex writes that she thinks you are a useless father, then this is harder to fight against than if she were falsely accusing you of being addicted to illegal substances.
Consult an attorney if this is the path you wish to go down and they will be able to advise you on the best course of action.
Facebook now has over 1.2 billion active accounts worldwide, and therefore, has a huge responsibility to protect its users.
There is a report facility that enables you to flag any post that you find to be offensive. If Facebook views it as breaching its code of conduct then it will be removed.
Breaches include hate speech, violence or threats, and harassment and bullying so if you believe that a comment about you falls into any of these categories then report it.
Bear in mind that you will only see such comments if you are friends with your ex on Facebook, which may be unlikely.
However, if you hear from another party that your ex is writing defamatory comments then there is still a function that allows you to file a report against something you can’t see.
When we see something written about us that we know to be untrue or unfair then our natural reaction is to defend ourselves and argue against it.
This can be exacerbated further through Facebook because other people may become involved and offer their opinions and comments on the subject.
You may also find that from your safe place behind a keyboard you say things that you may not necessarily say in real life and this can lead to arguments becoming out of hand, all in front of a audience.
This is not the image you want to portray of yourself and, as hard as is it, you have to try to be the bigger person and ignore the comments. Getting into an online argument does not present a positive or mature image and will probably bring more attention to the original post than if you just keep quiet.
If the post is so extreme that you simply have to respond then a careful, well thought out and polite response is far preferable to a public slanging match.
Try to remember that this is being seen by a number of people and if either of your parenting skills are brought into question then you never know who may take it upon themselves to contact social services.