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DefamationWhat is Online Defamation?

April 19, 20190

Online defamation is the broadcasting or publication of a false statement whether written or spoken that targets the reputation of the person being defamed. It can occur online or offline. Online defamation is further characterized into two main sections, i.e Libel – written defamatory words and Slander – spoken defamatory statement.


Online defamation is that seriously harms their reputation whether conveying simple straightforward information or urging others to action words matter deeply.

In this article, the main questions I’m going to discuss are:

What is online defamation or making false statements about someone?

Then we’re gonna have an eye that

What are the elements of online defamation?

How to deal with online defamation?


What are the examples of online defamation?

In order to provide the quality of information I would like to share the concept of business defamation.

What is business defamation that may harm your business?

Can you approach the court of law for business defamation lawsuit?

How you may protect your business from an online business defamation?

When used carelessly words can cause harm despite what the famous nursery rhyme says it’s important to understand online defamation because it can have serious consequences.

You can be sued for millions of dollars if you do it online defamation is a topic that many students find complicated while the law can get complicated for lawyers and judges trying to sort out the details after a defamation lawsuit is filed.

The basic idea of defamation which is enough for the average Internet user to protect themselves from most lawsuits is fairly straightforward.

so, what is online defamation?

What are the Examples of Online Defamation?

Here, I will refer an example of online defamation which may help you to understand the things till the end. Now I need your attention!

If you post a tweet that says John stole a school bus and used it for a family vacation, you’d better be right.

And if you’re wrong you have probably seriously harmed defamed John’s reputation.

Not too hard to understand right but we need to dig a bit deeper within this single line definition.

What are the Elements of Online Defamation?

Five things that the people suing in this example are that:

John must show before he can successfully sue for defamation and the Supreme Court added one more. Let’s take a quick look at each of them:

  1. The first thing the person suing must show is that the defamatory statement has been published online that’s usually pretty straightforward.

It is important to understand however that a broadcasted or published statement can occur almost anywhere online like live newspapers, websites, and blogs which are common sources of online defamation.

But defamatory statements can also appear in Tweets, Yelp, Reviews, Youtube Videos, Podcasts, Wiki’s online discussion boards and elsewhere in addition to showing that the statement was broadcasted.

A person suing must also show that he or she has been individually identified in many cases this is also pretty easy to determine.

If a person is named he or she will almost certainly meet the identification requirement in other cases it’s not so clear.

If you do not explicitly name the person but provide enough specific details that there can be no confusion over who you’re referring to the identification standard is met so if you defame the government executive who makes his home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue it is still reasonably identifiable as the president.

If there is no identification, a person cannot successfully sue for defamation even if he or she believes that they are the one targeted by a false accusation.

  1. The second thing about the definition of defamation and it’s very clear.

Only false statements of fact can be defamatory.

There aren’t too many black and white rules in the law but this is one of them truth is an absolute defense to a charge of defamation even though you might know that John took a bus without permission and used it for a family vacation.

Though do you have sufficient reliable evidence?

For example, verifiable documents, police reports, photographs, trustworthy unbiased witnesses, etc. to back your claim of John denies it.

If you don’t have then you may not be able to rely on the truth to get you out of defamation.

On the other hand, if you know something is true and you can prove it you can never be successfully sued for online defamation.

No matter how much it might damage a person’s reputation or how angry they might be as the saying goes a person is entitled to no greater reputation than they have earned.

  1. The third thing is suing person must show that the defamatory statement is an assertion of fact, not an opinion.

If a statement contains the only opinion it cannot be defamatory.

Unfortunately it is sometimes difficult to tell one from the other in our example embalming John.

It is easy to tell that the statement is an assertion of fact for one thing facts are objective, they are either true or false either he unlawfully took the bus or he didn’t.

If instead, you had simply said John is horrible, the statement which can’t really be proven true or false would be a pure opinion and protected in a defamation lawsuit.

This is one of the reasons why cyber bullying and internet trolling is so difficult to regulate.

Most cyber bullying amounts to name-calling statements like Johnny is fat Pedro is ugly or Rita is dumb although they are me and they can seriously harm someone’s feelings they are not defamatory.

Some statements contain both opinion and fact.

For example, if you say I think John is awful because he misused school property. This summer that’s a mixed statement that might support a defamation claim and be careful simply preface in a statement.

In my opinion, it will not protect you from a defamation claim if it contains untrue factual assertions a close cousin of opinion is satire and humor the publication of April fool emails spoof articles on websites like the onion another humorous.

Online content occasionally prompts threats of defamation or other lawsuits by individuals who find themselves a target.

Generally, it’s not of Defense to defamation to claim that you were just trying to be funny or men and only as joke humor is not necessarily the same as an opinion and does not enjoy blanket protection from lawsuits.

However, if a statement cannot reasonably be interpreted by readers to be one of express or implied fact it cannot be defamatory.

In other words, as long as readers understand that a joke or a cartoon is not meant to be taken seriously its subject cannot successfully sue for defamation subtle humor can be dangerous.

For example, posting a photo to Instagram of a coach and an athlete and writing a joking comment that the two are having an affair might be funny to those who know it’s a joke but it might also be fairly believable to those who don’t and possibly harm reputations.

So to be safe, if you intend something as a joke be sure that everyone will recognize it as such next up in order to successfully sue for online defamation.

  1. The fourth thing person suing must also show that the front loss statement about them cause serious harm to the reputation.

Being mildly offended or embarrassed is not enough some statements about a person if false will almost always be sufficiently harmful to a person’s reputation to support a defamation claim.

For example, if you publish a statement that accuses a person of having committed a crime such as stealing a school bus your facts must be accurate because such accusations will almost always seriously harm a person’s reputation.

On the other hand, if you tweet that John gave you a dirty look in class today he can’t sue you for defamation even if you’re lying.

Once it’s shown that a statement has been published identifies a specific individual his false asserts of fact and causes serious harm to a reputation.

  1. The person claiming defamation must still show one more thing when suing in an American Court.

The Supreme Court of the United States has said that in order to successfully sue for defamation the First Amendment requires that the person suing must also show at a minimum that the defendant messed up that he or she was somehow at fault.

How to deal with online defamation?

In other words, before you can be successfully sued, you must have done something.

A reasonable person would not have done or failed to do something that a reasonable person should have done.

When writing online about public officials or public figures the person who claims he has been defamed may even have to show that you knew what you wrote was false or that you acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

This is what the United States Supreme Court referred to in the 1964 case New York Times versus Sullivan as actual malice this is why tabloids and gossip websites are able to avoid many lawsuits the growth of social media raises new and interesting questions about who’s a public figure.

For example, if you have 20,000 followers on Twitter.

Does that make you a public figure?

What if you post a YouTube video that goes viral and gets a million views?

Are you than a public figure?

People aren’t the only ones who can be defamed!

What is Business Defamation?

Business defamation also is known as business disparagement which is another potential pitfall relating to online speech. It involves belittling someone’s business goods or services with a remark that is false or misleading but not necessarily defamatory to succeed in a business defamation case.

What are the Elements of Business Defamation?

The plaintiff must prove the following elements of business defamation in order to constitute a business defamation lawsuit:

  1. First, the defendant made the disparaging remark.
  2. Second, the defendant either intended to injure the business knew the statement was false or recklessly disregarded whether it was true.
  3. Third, the statement resulted in special damages to the plaintiff.

It is very difficult for businesses to win such cases though because the actual malice requirement is so high courts will only pose a liability for business disparagement stemming from online communications in the most egregious cases.

Sometimes businesses will threaten frivolous defamation lawsuits as a way to censor criticism even if it’s valid criticism.

The business knows it has no chance of winning the lawsuit but merely wants to intimidate customers rivals and others from expressing negative opinions about the business.

This practice is known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation or slap in response.

Some states have passed anti-slap laws to fight such abuses but it still remains a problem after all what person wants to deal with the headache of an expensive lawsuit and its interactivity raises a new interesting legal issue for online defamation.

Can you get sued for defamation comments that people post on your site?

The short answer is no if you operate a blog, discussion board, social media platform or website that allows users to comment, you are not legally responsible for defamatory comments made by outsiders.

The Federal Communications Decency Act should shield you and your website though the authors of such comments can and do get sued.

The reason for this is Congress did not want to stifle web development by placing an enormous burden on website owners to screen every comment for defamation without such a law.

The last question in my mind…,

Is online defamation illegal?

Then definitely an online defamation is illegal as well as falls within the ambit of computer crime if it meets with the requirements which you have read above.

The United States declared an online defamation illegal as its consequences can cause harm to anyone’s business and reputation.

Massive online discussion boards such as “reddit” would likely not be possible.

You can retain legal immunity even if you voluntarily screen profane or defamatory comments but if you start rewriting comments to improve them then you may become responsible as a co-creator or if you write your own blog posts that quote someone else making a defamatory statement then you could land in legal hot water just the same as if you had said or written the defamatory statement yourself.

Finally, if you make a defamatory comment online then don’t assume you can hide behind anonymity.

A court may compel a web site to reveal which IP address the defamatory statement from and based on that cyberspace address.

They may be able to determine yours in real-life identity.

On the other hand, if you operate a website and the police or someone else wants to know who posted comments on your site then you don’t need to reveal anything unless they get a court order or a subpoena.

Well, that’s it hopefully now you feel a little more confident in being able to recognize and safely navigate some of the most common defamation traps for the Internet.

This is all about the online defamation as per my selective source of research.

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