As high-profile defamation cases continue to settle and outdated defamation laws begin to catch up to technology, the way Australians access the law remains archaic.
On February 7th, 2020, a landmark legal case settled awarding Adelaide lawyer, Gordon Cheng a $750,000 defamation payout. Mr Cheng had received an onslaught of defamatory reviews from an independent party who had never been a client. Mr Cheng suffered significant mental health issues and financial hardship, losing approximately 80 per cent of his former clients.
Other high-profile defamation cases, including Rebel Wilson v Bauer Media and Geoffrey Rush v Daily Telegraph, have bought the nexus between technology and the law onto the public agenda.
Defamation and cyberbullying can take many forms; threatening emails, harmful or harassing social media posts, the sharing of a post, false reviews or circulating private photos.
Action shots of celebrities and top-end executives valiantly walking out of courthouses fail to showcase the thousands of dollars spent on legal teams that enable a success story in the first place. You can’t receive justice if you have no means to get to the starting line.
How the law is practised is improving to accommodate to a contemporary social media era, yet the average Australia still struggles to access legal services due to cost and time restrictions.
Committed to stamping out hate-speech and defamation are Principle Lawyer and Director of Sydney Law firm Charlton, Robinson + Associates, Anna Charlton and Julie Robinson.
One with a background in the police force and the other a trained psychologist, the two lawyers are driving innovation by merging technology and the law; offering Australia’s ‘missing middle’ a feasible platform to seek justice.
“Innovation is about being prepared to step up to create change. It is about being prepared to put your ideas, beliefs and knowledge into addressing change in a positive way. It is about being brave and speaking up, but doing more than just talking about injustice,” says Ms Robinson.
“The reality is, the rule of law is not able to be accessible to everyone because of cost,” says Ms Charlton.
Defined by the Law Council of Australia, the ‘missing middle’ is a demographic unable to qualify for legal aid assistance. These working Australian’s such as small business owners, struggle to afford representation for commercial or family law matters, debt recovery, defamation, slander and cyberbullying.
“This can lead to those members of the community caught in the middle, often choosing to self-represent; leading to profound, life-changing implications. It can stop them from travelling overseas and even lead to termination of their employment,” says Ms Charlton.
“The gaps in Australia between those who can afford legal services and those who can’t is widening. This is due to the economy and the way Australian society is structured.”
Both Ms Charlton and Ms Robinson sought to shift the needle on the law by increasing accessibility Australia-wide, in turn creating Defamation2Go and Cyberbullying2GO. Developed by the two women, these landmark legal platforms are an online service that provides affordable legal solutions, delivered to a client’s desktop.
“More and more, we are seeing that organisations and digital platforms such as Google being held accountable for what they allow posted onto social media and the internet,” says Ms Robinson.
Cyberbullying and defamation are on the rise, yet many Australians still struggle to access legal services that won’t bankrupt them.
“It is through Defamation2Go, we hope to bring about that change and ensure that no one is subjected to defamation or cyberbullying,” says Ms Robinson.
The mission was simple: bring cost-effective online solutions to people facing the adverse realities of living in the digital age.
A mother-of-four with a background in psychology, Ms Robinson has a passion for stamping out cyberbullying and online defamation.
“As a mother, aunt and lawyer, I could see the hurt in the eyes of people who were being subjected to defamation and cyberbullying,” Ms Robinson says.
“Hearing about young people and business owners in the media who commit suicide over cyberbullying bought about our desire to effect change.”
“Enormous harm is being done by undesirable individuals hiding behind technology, bringing about destruction,” says Ms Charlton.
A prime example of the need for these services was when a woman running a local hairdresser was subjected to social media defamation and cyberbullying by a former employee.
“This particular business owner felt powerless and did not think that she could afford to take legal action. When informed of the Defamation2Go and Cyberbullying2Go services, this business owner stated that she wished she had known of the services sooner,” says Ms Charlton.
“People don’t realise there are laws to protect them or don’t have the financial resources to pursue justice,” Ms Charlton says.
The need for such services is becoming increasingly important as the way we do business, and our personal brands become increasingly embedded online. It is near impossible to control what is said about you over the internet, what was equally challenging was seeking justice – those days are over.
“Law2Go makes the law affordable to those members of the community caught in the middle. They can access legal information and guidance with their legal problems which are affordable,” Ms Robinson says.
“We believe the law was created for all, so should be accessible to all and if that means changing how lawyers do business then let’s change.”
Ms Robinson and Ms Charlton acknowledge that more significant strides will have to be made to close the missing middle across the entire legal community. Yet Charlton, Robinson + Assoc remain determined to reduce the obstacles preventing Australian’s from fairly accessing legal services.
“No longer will bullying and defamatory behaviour be accepted within the community, and the offenders must be identified now and punished if necessary. Through our services, victims can stop feeling victimised and regain some hope,” says Ms Charlton.