Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Communications Honours


School of Communications and Multimedia


Faculty of Communications and Creative Industries

First Advisor

Dr Lelia Green


As a consequence of the dominant role the United States has played in its development, the Internet has become synonymous with a liberal interpretation of freedom of expression, heavily imbued with First Amendment free speech principles. This has resulted in an environment that supports an adversarial, aggressive style of interaction; an environment which has become a "defamation prone zone" (Edwards, 1997). However, resolving online defamation disputes is problematic, particularly in cross-jurisdictional cases involving defendants based in the United States. Incongruities in the balance of free speech and reputation between the United States and most other countries, as expressed through defamation law, limits the likelihood of foreign judgments being enforced in the United

States. The study of Dr Trevor Cullen's case highlights the difficulties facing Australian plaintiffs in achieving relief from malicious online defamation perpetrated by a resident of the United States. The case study is located within a broader discussion on the prevalence of online harassment and defamation, and the impact this type of behaviour has on individuals and the public sphere. Dr Cullen's experiences highlight the difficulties entailed in balancing conflicting rights- the rights of individuals to express themselves freely, and an individual's right to protect their reputation, particularly when these rights are interpreted quite differently cross-culturally. In doing so, the case study questions the hegemonic notion, as reflected in Internet culture, that an individual's right to free speech should necessarily be given primacy over other competing rights, in the interests of a healthy public sphere.