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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:


  • Libeler,

  • Slanderer,

  • Defamer, or

  • Famacide (a lesser known term).


Factual statements are statements that can be proven or disproven.


Libel Removal Tip: Defamation insurance is a powerful tool if you are a party at high-risk of defamation and libel claims. Defamation insurance covers libel and should be procured if you are a freelancer, journalist, or independent contractor who engages in high-profile work.


Note that when proving the third element of defamation, depending on whether a plaintiff is a private or public figure, they will have different burdens in proving the intent the defendant acted with.

  • Private individual: Private individuals have not availed themselves to a public life, therefore when defamatory statements are made about them and published online, it is an extreme invasion of their privacy. Therefore, private individuals are only required to prove the defendant acted negligently when making or publishing the statement. Private individuals should not have to jump through countless hoops to bring a claim after being defamed online.

  • Public official: Public officials have taken the risk that acting as a public figure, they will be discussed about – in furtherance of politics, social policy, and the overall public’s right to stay informed. When bringing a claim for defamation, the standard is a bit tougher for public officials, and they are required to prove the defendant acted with actual malice, or reckless disregard.


An important note when dealing with online defamation – it can take many forms. Even video and audio recordings on the Internet (two forms of defamation becoming increasingly popular), remarks made in a podcast, Youtube, or other recordings can all be considered defamation – and most correctly defined as libel.


Keep in mind that no matter the medium it is conveyed in online, as long as it is a published false statement or accusation, it will amount to defamation – libel or slander.


Defendants may have several defenses at their disposal when faced with a defamation claim. Keep in mind that the definition of defamation is the assertion of a false statement of fact. Remembering this will help make sense of the following defenses.

  • Truth: If the statement concerning the plaintiff is true, then there is no falsity of the statement, and thus, no claim for libel or slander.

  • Opinion: A fundamental test to determine whether a statement is opinion or fact is whether the statement can be proved true or false in a court of law. If it cannot be proved true, then it is classified as opinion, and vice versa.

  • Absolute Privilege: Absolute privilege is the legal right to say or communicate a statement and will typically apply in legislative proceedings, and when giving evidence in court. A statement qualifies as absolutely privileged (even if defamatory) when it is necessary the statement be heard for social, political, or other important reasons. Absolute privilege even protects statements made with actual malice.

  • Conditional Privilege: Conditional or “qualified” privilege may be used as a defense in situations where the statement was made in interest of furthering public interest – such as a journalist reporting on a certain matter or a university president writing an unfavorable letter of recommendation for a professor. Qualified privilege will not protect statements made with actual malice.

  • Consent: Plaintiffs who consent to having a defamatory statement made or published about them will be barred from bringing a defamation claim.

  • Fair Comment on a Matter of Public Interest: A more nuanced defense, fair comment on a matter of public interest will protect against a defamation claim where the defendant acted in good faith and honest belief when making a statement concerning public interest. It will be upheld if a court determines a reasonable person could honestly entertain such a thought.


Most people completely discount online defamation and don’t think it could possibly affect or impact their lives. Although that may be a reasonable assumption to make, it’s important to remember that defamation does not discriminate, and the crux of the claim is that the statement is “untrue.” Therefore, even if you’re a model citizen, there’s still malicious persons and online trolls out there who are looking to push their own agendas by posting false content online.

Such reasons for posting defamatory statements online can include:

  • A heated argument or exchange online or in your daily life

  • A recent break-up with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse

  • A customer who feels that he or she did not get a fair shake

  • A business competitor

  • A jealous social competitor

  • Mistakes on a website that displays mugshots

  • Mistakes on a website naming sexual predators


Unfortunately the above covers only a few of the more common scenarios for internet defamation. The sad fact in today’s world is inaccurate and damaging posts can appear without warning from even a minor disagreement or awkward interaction.

Some high-risk professions include:

  • Freelancers,

  • Independent contractors,

  • Journalists, and

  • Reporters.


High-risk parties should look into purchasing defamation insurance, which could help lessen the overall financial impact a defamation claim has on them, especially if it tends to happen frequently.