IN a first for South African courts, a woman has been ordered by the Johannesburg High Court to remove an offensive post about a former friend from Facebook.
She also has to cover the legal costs of the case. Judge Nigel Willis, himself active on Twitter, ordered that the litigants' names not be published because minor children are involved.
The application was brought by a Johannesburg insurance broker, named WH in the judgment, who sought an interdict against a former friend who sided with his wife in pending divorce proceedings.
The friend penned an open letter to him, which she posted on Facebook last year, which read: "Letter to WH – for public consumption. I wonder too what happened to the person who I counted as a best friend for 15 years, and how this behaviour is justified. Remember I see the broken hearted faces of your girls every day.
"Should we blame the alcohol, the drugs, the church, or are they more reasons to not have to take responsibility for the consequences of your own behaviour? But mostly I wonder whether, when you look in the mirror in your drunken testosterone haze, do you still see a man?"
Willis said in his judgment it was "common cause that WH enjoys a good party", that he likes his social intercourse "to be lubricated with alcoholic beverages" and that he is an active social networker on Facebook and Twitter. His friend has until now refused to remove the post.
She responded to his lawyers saying that she wanted him to "reflect on his life and on the road he had chosen".
After analysing the letter, Willis said the background to the post, together with the words, indicated that the respondent acted out of malice when she posted the offending comments.
While the friend contended that WH could have approached Facebook, reported the abuse and asked for the post to be blocked, Willis said there was nothing to assure him that Facebook would comply.
He ordered that WH's friend remove the offending post and pay the legal costs.