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The age old question that most people seem to mix up. Which one is it when someone posts false and defamatory material about you or your business on the Internet? Libel or slander?
We’ll get to all of that in the body of this post, but first, let’s tackle the social construct and context of online defamation.
Online defamation has the potential to cause significant damage to not only a person’s reputation, but to their:
Mental health, and
In the last few decades, defamation has evolved from a construct limited by community and inefficient channels of communication, such as a newspaper, magazine, or telephone, to now a tangible reality at the fingertips of anyone with a computer, smartphone, or PC. Now, instead of affecting injured parties at a small-town or geographically limited level, online defamation knows no boundaries and can follow a person across the world – permeating language, class, and country.
All thanks to the Internet and World Wide Web, online defamation and its meteoric rise has come upon us at an alarming rate. Whereas, we used to have to deliberately sit down to hand-write a note or compose an email, now, such period of cooling off is long gone. And today, most people are electronically plugged in wherever they are, whether it be the subway, library, or even the middle of the countryside.
A moment of anger and jealousy can have devastating effects – delegating the role of judge, jury, and executioner to one person. Additionally, the proliferation of consumer advocacy and review sites provides a newfound incentive for posters to maliciously attack and defame businesses in order to obtain free or discounted products and services.
As you can see from our site, defamation has spread so wide, and embedded itself in the deepest fabrics of society, that we have made a profession out of combatting the humiliation and embarrassment brought on by it.
Now, let’s get into more technical definitions of what constitutes defamation of character, its elements, and common defenses used by defendants. We will also explore persons who are high risk of becoming a victim of online libel and defamation.
If you’ve been the victim of online libel or defamation, time is of the essence. Online defamation is like a wildfire, and should be put out before it has time to spread and cement itself into Google and Internet search results.
Libel and slander are both types of defamation, which is defined as a false statement published to a third-party damaging a person’s reputation. Libel and slander possess the same elements, but come in different form. Let’s first tackle the overarching definition of defamation of character, which requires the following four elements be proved by the plaintiff in order to succeed in their claim.
The factual statement or assertion was untrue,
The false statement was made by the defendant was unprivileged,
The defendant made the statement with at least negligence, and in some cases actual malice, and
The false factual statement caused harm to the targeted individual’s standing or reputation leading to damages or other harm. Or, the statement was so inherently defamatory, that the plaintiff need not prove damages – also known as defamation per se.
Let’s break defamation down even further, which can be classified into both slander and libel.
Slander is a false spoken statement damaging another person’s reputation, while libel is a false written statement damaging another’s reputation. The general public usually mixes up the two, and considers anything that is defamatory to be slander, when in fact, online defamation should be correctly named ‘online libel’ – due to it appearing in written form. Think about the various forms of communication on the Internet; blog posts, emails, webpages, forum postings, and other textual forms – these would all be considered online libel.
For reference, the party making a libelous or slanderous statement is often referred to as a:
Famacide (a lesser known term).
Factual statements are statements that can be proven or disproven.