The South African Police Service (SAPS) in Brooklyn, Pretoria is investigating social media accounts which have tweeted rape allegations against men. In some cases, threats have been made against the men

In a statement released on Friday, police spokesperson Captain Colette Weilbach has cautioned users against posting names of alleged rapists on social media.

Weilbach said a number of cases were opened at the police station for defamation of character.

“The young men opened cases for defamation of character and are fearing for their safety based on these unfounded allegations. No case dockets were opened against them for the alleged offences,” said Weilbach.

News24 earlier reported that Twitter accounts have surfaced in reaction to the #AmINext hashtag to “expose” alleged rapists. Accounts such as @AmINext_sa, @HSurvivers3 and @helpsurvivers have received messages from women outing their abusers.

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On Thursday, News24 reported that Twitter had suspended the @helpsurvivors account.

These accounts then “expose” the men, posting their names and pictures. Weilbach said threats were made against the alleged rapists.

In the statement, “criminal defamation” is described as “the unlawful intentional publication of matter concerning another which tends seriously to injure his or her good name or reputation”.

“The allegation that someone is a rapist is unquestionably defamatory in law. Posts like these can have serious and lasting consequences.”

Weilbach said the social media user who initiated the post and those who shared or retweeted it were potentially liable and if found guilty, they could be held liable for “all probable consequences of the statement, including those flowing from republication by third parties”.