Online Defamation Rights
With most of your personal and professional life online, it’s important for you to know your rights for online defamation. According to Carl Freer, defamation or libel is a false statement that is presented as fact that may harm someone’s reputation. It is published because of negligence or malice. There are several defamation definitions according to different state laws. Slander is spoken defamation and libel is written defamation.
What Constitutes a Defamation Claim?
There are a number of elements that need to be proved in order to claim defamation. A false statement presented as a fact that is generally understood to concern the plaintiff and is intended to harm the plaintiff’s reputation. A public figure must also prove that malice was intended. The truth of the matter can be a defense to a defamation claim but the truth needs to be proven, which may be difficult or expensive. If someone states an opinion or guess about an issue, it cannot be considered defamatory. The statement needs to be presented as a verifiable fact.
Social Media and Defamation
Comments that are posted online on websites or social media sites may remain there for years, and even when they are removed, they remain in search engines and could surface at any time as a result of certain keywords. The same aspect of the Internet that keeps things for years can also be used to counter defaming comments.
Defamation on Facebook or LinkedIn are posted words and considered libel. People may think they can say anything they want on their own site and it doesn’t matter. This is not the case. Some of the places where defamatory words are most common are:
- Comments on newspaper or magazine websites
- Comments on blogs and the blogs themselves
- Comments on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
- Comments on char rooms or list servers
Some websites have a screening process for illegal or inflammatory content, but they don’t catch it all. If you believe you have been defamed online, you can contact an attorney who specializes in this type of case. Since there may not be much compensation in suing a blogger, people often want to sue the Internet service provider (ISP). However, there is a federal law, the Communications Decency Act that exempts website hosts and ISPs from most defamation claims.
If a blogger states that a person they know shoplifts every day, it must be true or it is defamatory. Truth is a defense to defamation. If the blogger says that they suppose their friend shoplifts every day, it may sound like an opinion and be all right, but there are extenuating circumstances. If the blogger is a close friend of the alleged shoplifter, people may naturally think the blogger knows what he or she is talking about and believe it. Saying I Think before making a statement may not always protect you against a defamation claim.
Basically, those who blog or write on other’s social media pages should make sure they have all their facts correct before committing. Once the post is sent, it may remain there for years.
Large companies and name brands often hire professionals to maintain their image online and protect them against both committing defamation and receiving it. If it happens, these professionals know how to troubleshoot for the best results.