Redefining public figures on social media: Application of the public figure doctrine to social media users who became viral as a result of unwanted publicity

Date of Publication


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Juris Doctor

Subject Categories



College of Law



Thesis Advisor

Rigor R. Pascual

Defense Panel Chair

Jose Manuel Diokno

Defense Panel Member

Ryan Basilacan
Theodore Te


Libel principles have “lost much of their flavor, drowned and swamped as they have been by the ceaseless cacophony and din of thought and discourse emanating from just about every source and direction.”1 We are now at an age where everyone can be a publisher, a reader, and a listener at the same time. With the pervasive use of social media as new way of communication and an alternative manner of expressing one’s self, it can be said that our laws may be left behind. This Thesis is an in-depth examination of the public figure doctrine, both in the Philippines and its American counterpart, mainly focusing on the implications of its application to private social media users who unintentionally became viral as a result of unwanted publicity. As it presently stands, our laws considered these private social media users as public figures, and as a result, makes them subjected to a more stringent actual malice standard in case they want to file a libel suit against their defamers. Not having thrusted themselves voluntarily into the limelight, they should not be left remediless under our laws. Moreover, this study proposed a three-step inquiry to determine the public figure status of individuals who went viral on social media as a result of unwanted publicity. Lastly, said inquiry will be applied to the similarly situated case of Joaquin Montes, Dr. Joaquin Mendez, Paula “Amalayer girl” Salvosa, and Atty. Christopher Lao as case samples.

Abstract Format






Physical Description

128 leaves


Social media—Law and legislation; Mass media and publicity; Libel and slander

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