Overview of the Guide
- What is internet defamation?
- Elements of Internet defamation
- How Internet Defamation of character harms the reputation?
- The Law of defamation and internet
- CYBER DEFAMATION VS FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION
- How to prevent internet defamation?
- Famous Internet Defamation Cases
- Top 10 Famous Internet Defamation Cases
- What would be an internet defamation consequences?
What is internet defamation?
I don’t think a lot of people understand what the rules are and the laws are that apply to this.
We’re gonna be discussing internet defamation.
I actually desire to talk about this because it’s such a timely topic and it is such a prevalent problem especially for me in the past.
I have a lot of comments coming in with problems of Internet Defamation and what to do with it.
So if you have any questions then ask in the question section of this blog.
People can write blogs basically even Wikipedia. Really, isn’t necessarily the whole truth about everything because anybody can write whatever they want on the Internet these days.
So what exactly is internet defamation?
How does it apply to?
What can be put on the Internet?
You know I’ve always thought about truth as a very equivalent to the Internet. It’s a very vague area but basically I think people have a different idea of what Internet defamation is as far as or in comparison to traditional defamation.
It’s basically the same and in most jurisdictions it has the same definition.
Elements Of Defamation
If you have a claim for defamation or even an Internet defamation you actually have to qualify for the elements of defamation.
1. A number one element is the false statement against the person.
That’s a highly litigated topic because the courts have ruled that if it’s a statement of opinion, it could never be defamation.
It has to be a statement of fact and the problem with distinguishing between fact and opinion is what is a fact and what is an opinion?
It’s funny because 15 years ago the court came up with a ruling that distinguished between a fact and opinion.
Well it’s a matter of opinion, so that’s really a highly litigated matter but basically if it’s defamation it has to be a statement of fact which means it has to be a verifiable statement whether it’s true or false and that’s really hard to determine.
But for example James is a felon. Now felony is something that can be verified so that if it’s false can be defamatory.
If it’s a statement for example, James is a loser then losers is not something that we can verify. It’s a matter of opinion and the course of time and time again ruled that a matter of opinion is not actionable as defamation.
In fact there is a case law back in 2002 that was a restaurant case law in Nevada.
There was a review against the restaurant and but basically the court said you know what typically a restaurant review has a nature of being an opinion and typically a defamation will not rise on a statement of opinion but the good thing about that ruling is that the course did not entirely disregard a statement of opinion.
It has to be read in context; they have to look at the context. They have to look at the social context and how it’s used or if there’s malice behind it.
So do i is just a regular person out there because everyone nowadays you have to write what you’re doing minute by minute online because everybody needs to know what you’re doing throughout the entire day.
So I go somewhere to eat and the service is terrible.
So I wrote on Facebook that such a place and the service was terrible.
Well what if they decide they want to come after me?
Well you know what do I need to be careful of what I’m writing here and everyone be careful these days that’s you know what that is true and I think the social media has made people careless about what they say online and that’s because i’ll go through it.
Later it says some misconceptions about the web and that’s number one is that I’m anonymous when I’m on the web well that’s not true and I think people when they’re behind a computer, they’re actually behind a desk.
They don’t necessarily think that there are people deterring what they say or they typically don’t say things that they would normally say in front of somebody but reviews typically are not a statement of fact.
It depends again on the context. The court will look at it, the jury will look at it but be careful what you say on Facebook because whatever you say in a social media has the same gravity as if you said it in a newspaper because if you compare the two medium newspapers versus Facebook. Basically, Facebook has more of an impact because it’s simultaneous.
It’s instantaneous and your friends can read it, even friends of your friends can read it. So be careful what you say.
2. Another element that I think people will have to be careful about is that whether or not the statement is against a private figure and versus a private figure versus a public right like I could say oh I think my Senator is a horrible person right and that could be an opinion and but if it’s a statement of fact and if it’s a statement against a public figure it’s a much bigger hurdle to prove.
Internet Defamation is harder to claim because when you’re a public figure.
The courts have held that you actually have to have an actual malice to state that he does this defamatory statement and the question is what is actual malice and the course have been obviously ambiguous in defining it but basically if there’s a false and reckless statement that you have failed to verify the veracity of the truth.
What does that mean?
Well again that’s for the course interpretation because a lot of times what you’re putting out there you’re not doing it maliciously. It’s just again everyone like everybody needs to know everything they’re doing.
So I’m just putting it out there traffic was horrible. Metro should change these lights when a terrible job they’re doing. Yeah and again it has to be looked at in a social context and what a reasonable person would deem that statement to be either defamatory or it’s just a reckless state murder a statement of opinion.
But basically on public figures it’s a much higher hurdle in general if it’s a private figure.
All you have to do is all the standard that the plaintiff will have to meet is negligence.
It’s a much lower standard in the private figure.
In any cause of action you have to show some damages otherwise what’s the point of a litigation but there generally there’s some damages that’s involved either general damages or economic damages but there are some statements that the court has recognized to be so egregious that the damages are pursued you don’t have to prove damages.
Internet defamation, so we are assuming that that’s what I like to do because of the rise of the use of the Internet.
We’re seeing a rise in internet defamation lawsuits.
Oh definitely most definitely in fact you know it’s a double-edged sword we’re and now that you’re in especially for business owners it’s almost they don’t almost don’t have a choice but to put themselves out there in Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.
So they can have their brand exposure was just a great thing on one hand, on the other hand you have websites like Yelp which has pros and cons.
Pro is that people that have great reviews about your restaurants can post there.
In fact I’m a Yelp user and I go there before I go to any restaurants or any hotels.
I check their pictures; I check their food, if there’s a great review it’s a hub for a lot of defamatory probably false statements.
Well we have social media and immediate access to the Internet is one other factor and I can remember I have to have AOL to connect to the internet. It takes me 30 minutes to connect to the internet but nowadays you have iPhones or iPads. You can just take a picture, put it on Facebook and bam.
And in a second you have a review of something or a statement about somebody and so the immediate access to the Internet has provided a forum for all kinds of statements.
For the past years I have these complaints from clients coming to me about these gripe sites.
What I call at least gripe sites or what attorneys call gripe sites about one of them is a ripoff report not calm where in people on one hand. If it’s a true statement it could be a great positive thing.
You can have a complaint against the business and people can review it.
On the other hand I have some clients who came in to me and say I know it’s my competitor that has posted those complaints against me on ripoff reports which may or may not be true but certainly it does happen.
Another website that I know of is Viacom. I just heard it some weeks ago. I wasn’t even aware that such a website exists but basically if it’s the jilted lover has a complaint against you they can post something on the internet and say you’re a cheater and everybody who knows you or can basically have a search in there where they can type in your name and your picture will be there and in all history of your cheating or alleged cheating history, that is so damaging.
For a lot of people is there any difference in the eyes of the law between those sites like Shooter Ville you’re personally attacking another person but Yelp you’re just reviewing somebody’s business.
How internet defamation harm the reputation?
You work all your life for your reputation but with one keystroke it could be tarnished forever.
It’s your face, your name but the statements are all false as the World Wide Web (www) expands cases of internet defamation continue to increase to women showing no sign of physical harm.
I was really embarrassed but the wounds were no more than skin-deep.
It’s an emotional rate both women victims of Internet defamation sharing their stories to help others.
You need to learn that what goes online stays online.
The Internet, for most of us, it’s a place we go to work and sometimes play but it’s a fragile playground.
It’s really impossible to prevent somebody from posting information about you or your business online.
The comments aren’t always positive. Once they’re there then there’s not much you can do to remove them.
It’s difficult or impossible to force them to do that because their immune systems are protected from liability under the Communications Decency Act.
Sous-chef of Florida chronicles her landmark internet defamation lawsuit in her book Google Balm.
She won approximately an 11.3 million dollar settlement in 2006 after a woman posted false statements about her and her child.
She wrote sous-chef abuses children, I kidnapped kids, I exploited families, I’m a con on its danger when she decided to fight back.
It was not an easy process as anybody can sue anybody. The fact is, you have to have a lot of money despite the eventual multi-million dollar payout.
She says her life will never be quiet. The same she did, destroying her really for five years. I mean even today you can Google her and find some horrific stuff out there.
So how do you prevent this from happening in the first place?
D Ken Hansen has helped hundreds; he says people need to create their own brand online.
Your online reputation is for all practical purposes the irony.
Here you have to be online in order to protect yourself from the internet.
De Famers Hansen suggests blogging networking doing everything. You can build your online reputation on your terms and you probably will be helpful for everybody to Google themselves and see what’s out there.
Another good idea is to sign up for Google and Twitter alerts.
You can receive an email as it happens as something negative or positive or anything is posted about you on the internet even if you take these steps. This form of digital murder can happen but thanks to trailblazers like sue authorities are becoming more aware of this and it’s getting easier to fight back.
Internet defamation is still a relatively new problem but there is some help out there that offers victim’s advice and guidance.
The law of defamation and internet
I’d like to talk about more details called The Communication Decency Act passed in 1996. It was originally passed to protect pornography and all these solicitations postings on the internet but that section 230 of Communication Decency Act protects third party Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from actual postings of its users which makes sense.
On one hand if you’re a blogger of a controversial topic and some person will post something on your internet that you cannot control and you’d be glad that you have the Communication Decency Act.
But on the other hand, it has been used as a defense by Ripoff report or cheater Viacom to say “hey I’m not responsible for these postings. You have to go to that actual person who posted it for defamation because we have absolutely no control whatsoever about what they post”.
In the last five years they have not been but they were certainly slowly getting more cooperative because I think they were under the impression that the CD area Communication Decency Act of 2000 or Nathan 96 actually has protected them somewhat over the years but the courts have now recognized although slowly and the legislature have now recognized that there needs to be some protection against people that have been defamed online.
So even though in the legal arena they may not be liable to the extent that we want them to be, they have been cooperative.
The courts have been forcing them to at least release names of these users especially when there is a finding of defamatory statements.
I’m guessing that the internet growth is moving much faster than any sort of legislative growth trying to keep up with how we regulate? What is going on on there exactly?
Actually this Communication Decency Act has been interpreted by courts in different ways and they have sort of carved out exceptions to it in response.
You know a lot of changes in the internet and one of them is the Communication Decency Act does not apply if you’re a blogger.
For example, there is a posting a defamatory statement, you know initially as a non defamatory statement and you make alterations to it that now becomes a defamatory statement and you’re not covered.
It will enter the Fair Housing Act that’s discrimination and so the court said well because you have forced your users to choose between those drop-down menus. You have basically forced them to make a discriminatory statement.
By the way the courts have interpreted the CDA.
You can kind of tell that they’re getting away from the overly broad interpretation of CDA so you got to be careful even if you’re a third party.
What about these laws like the Communication Decency Act do only US laws apply to the Internet?
It’s the world wide web after I mean people all around the world are on Facebook and on Twitter and can post anything to my page that’s and that’s really what makes it so complicated.
In fact if you do have an internet defamation case obviously I always advise people to talk to an attorney.
I mean you know in a regular defamation you can probably get away with a pro se but an internet defamation we are talking about a gamut of issues. We’re talking about:
Is there a federal law involved?
Is there a copyright infringement?
Because in all reality it’s not just defamation and I’ll talk about that in a minute but there could be other causes of action involved and it could be either federal or state laws.
Different states actually if you’re a blogger be careful about what you say to other people in other states because there’s other states that have now enacted statutes that have made defamation to be a felony internet defamation.
I think states like Colorado and Montana have made it a felony to release an online defamatory statement with a fine of $100,000 and 18 months in jail.
I have never seen that before but that’s it’s in their books and just because you’re in Nevada as a blogger doesn’t mean you’re immune to it.
There’s different jurisdictions to think about, so be careful with that.
I guess the best versions anyone anywhere can access. Whatever you’re writing you aren’t in your own little bubble anymore.
No, no, definitely not, especially, with I mean that’s the purpose of a web is to be to open up the communication across the boundaries and the boundaries of law have not ever reached there.
Now the European Union has come along in adopting the United States, Canada or United Kingdom they have lost in there too.
So you think ours might be lenient but they are there may not be.
So be careful if you are making statements about a foreign company.
CYBER DEFAMATION VS FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION:
How do we determine what is free speech and what is actually defamation?
I mean, what we can and can’t say on the radio?
The government is telling us that they’re a little bit curtailing our complete freedom of speech rights but the government can do that.
The answer to that is all the loss and I’m actually gonna go through the misconception stuff online and one of them is that my posting on the Internet should be protected by First Amendment rights or free speech and the answer.
It’s not an absolute right.
Actually, we have defamation laws to curtail postings that are reckless and false.
Obviously, you want to protect there’s about delicate balance between First Amendment rights and the protection of your privacy and your reputation and obviously there’s other laws that are have been in place to protect copyright infringement, trademark infringement so you cannot just simply post trade names on the internet without the permission of the person or somebody’s likeness on online and without their permission.
Those are limitations in the First Amendment rights and just to go over some of the misconceptions and Internet defamation and I’d like to talk about anonymity.
I think people like to post on the internet with a thought that there will be anonymous and I think it gives them a little more courage to post something that they will never tell your face because I will never be found out but guess what as attorneys and we have ways to find out who you are? where are you? What is your IP address?
In fact my firm works with a reputable IT company in town.
What they do is if the client comes to me with a problem of somebody post anonymously online then:
How can I serve?
How can I litigate against them?
Well, I found out your IP address in conjunction and I’m working with this IT company. I found out your username and if you can’t find out your IP address, I can serve these ISP providers Google or Yahoo with a subpoena to release your identity.
So there’s definitely ways to get around web anonymity.
Are they cooperative companies like Google and those different companies when you go to them and say we need this information.
How to prevent internet defamation?
What would you have to do if your ex-boyfriend posted your nude pictures on the internet?
Well, you have to take some steps:
- First – first of all the main goal is to remove it.
- Second – the litigation, probably the second step.
- Third – is to identify who posted it.
You want to talk to an attorney about because there’s so many things, so many strategy, my job is to strategize and see what fits for you and when I tell my clients that when something like this happens there are several things to think about:
1. This is one of the biggest myths is that if somebody posts a negative comment or false comment against me on the Internet I should respond and comment on that particular review.
For example, I work in a newspaper setting when you post your side of the story and people like to post their side of the story just because it’s human nature to defend yourself but in an online setting we have search engine optimization when you comment on that post.
So be aware of this if you have a negative comment of you against you do not click on it, do not post on it, do not reply on it and I have one client who actually sent the link to all his friends saying “see what this guy did to me” “see all the false comments he’s made against me”.
This is false and he sent that to everyone and everyone’s been clicking on it and he moves it up in Google (THE SEO STRATEGY).
I mean do not ever do that. You can print it as evidence, you can copy/paste it for our purpose so for our litigation purpose but do not click on that link. It will put it up in number one and basically it’s not what you want to do.
2. Another tip that I have for people that are in this kind of situation: look at it, look at the context of the statement just because you think it’s an opinion doesn’t mean it is or it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a cause of action.
The thing is even courts don’t know what fact versus opinion is and there’s ways to argue it and in fact if there’s a statement in the court ruling that I think two courts have disagreed whether it’s opinion or not is that.
James is a crook! Well crook has a lot of interpretation to it. Crook a is a criminal allegation is it just an opinion well one court said it’s a criminal allegation because you’re basically alleging that he’s either a thief or a scammer and the other course it was just an opinion.
So in that setting you might want to talk about strategies or ways to deal with.
Hence, there are ways to look at that.
FAMOUS INTERNET DEFAMATION CASES
Number 1: There’s a famous internet defamation case in Texas that has awarded 12.5 million dollars for an Internet defamation verdict. That’s probably the biggest one I’ve seen, more recent in 2008.
Number 2: Another famous internet defamation case which i remember is, it was a litigation against Yahoo wherein initially they are not responsible because they’re a third party Internet Service Provider (ISP) on regarding this post but basically one of the workers of the company promised this plaintiff that you know what I’ll take care of it, I’ll remove it personally.
I think the coatless I’ll personally walk it through the division and have it removed and so the plaintiff kind of relied on that statement called the promissory estoppel and didn’t do anything about it.
So that the court said well you’re not protected anymore because of promise.
Number 3: Some weeks ago my friend referred me to a case to read regarding internet defamation, which was a case on a roommate. I believe it’s a match it’s kind of like a matchmaking service for roommates if you are looking for a roommate then you have to fill out the profile and you have to fill out your choices of who you want to be or your roommate with our brothers female or male and they even have choices whether you want it to be a straight male or gay male and/or a female without a children.
So you can see that people are more accepting of it because damages are basically being awarded.
They know and they acknowledge that it can be damaging to somebody because once it’s on the internet unless it’s a court order or you work with a branding company.
It’s hard to take it down.
TOP 10 FAMOUS INTERNET DEFAMATION CASES
- Zeran vs. America Online (1996)
- Stratton Oakmont vs. Prodigy (1995)
- Cubby, Inc. vs. CompuServe Inc., 776 F.Supp. 135(S.D.N.Y. 1991)
- Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone Case 16-2465 (United States)
- Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd  EWCA Civ 1334 (England)
- ABC News v Beef Products Inc, “The Pink Slime case” (United States)
- Melania Trump v Daily Mail (England)
- Monroe v Hopkins EWHC 433 (QB) (England)
- Chris Gayle v Fairfax Media (Australia)
- Gill v Anagnost, Crews and Grenier (United States)
Do celebrities fall in the same category as public figures like politicians do?
I think of websites like TMZ places like that where they deal in a lot of invasive information dealing with celebrities and then just throw it out there.
Unfortunately they are held to a higher standard and the court has said when you place yourself out there, you have to be in a different standard as you know as compared to a private person.
The difference between if you are a celebrity, for example, as opposed to just somebody like me who is it more of a private person and difference is it’s not necessarily a question of invasion of privacy when celebrities go out there put their their name out there and basically what the course that they have of yield the benefits of a public forum for their own economic advantage that basically you have to be ready to be attacked and they are held to a higher standard of actual malice for a defamation for an invasion of privacy.
It’s not necessarily a question of invasion of privacy because there are no longer private individuals but it’s called the right of publicity when their trade name or their names or their likeness are used without their permission.
They can obviously sue somebody who has done that especially, if that posting is for economic advantage so that’s the difference between the private individual.
The courts are more likely to uphold that invasion of privacy because you there’s private facts about you that a reasonable person would find objectionable such as nude pictures of you even though you may have sent it to your ex-boyfriend you did not intend it to be on the Internet.
Obviously with or at least without your permission right not like a Kardashian tape that you were taught.
If I talk about the sex tape I mean that’s voluntary you put that into Google so you better be ready for all those comments but something like that invasion of privacy again that’s another aspect of defamation that you have to consider.
It’s not just defamation there’s invasion of privacy. There’s a misappropriation of trade names and likeness. If you are a business, for example, if your restaurant again the court will say well you put yourselves out there for comments.
So most likely your cause of action will be a little bit different than defamation a little bit different because most likely it’s gonna be an opinion not gonna be facts so those are the things that you want to consider.
What would be an internet defamation consequences?
Yes, there exists the apprehension of serious consequences of an internet defamation.
Let’s imagine if you had a business like a restaurant, a hotel or some sort of customer service thing where you’re gonna get opinions. Where people either like you or don’t like you. If that it’s just opinions of people that are didn’t like your soup or whatever it was, it’s best just leave those alone but if you know or really believe that you’re come editor posting these things and that will be something to take a course of action, most likely yes and I have you know especially for mom-and-pop business when some you know I hate to say this but obviously their business is their lifeblood.
So when somebody says something negative or defamatory against their hotel, the gut reaction is to put a response and like my advice is if you want to do a response it’s at the extent that you want to do that.
I’d rather you call the customer directly and say how can we make it better for you and that usually takes down the comment and not in a way of responding it online because that just makes the entry more pop sure and then it just keeps going back and forth it turns online argument that other people then want to get involved in that’s not their business right.
It becomes an online war and I’ve seen that happen it’s not a good thing for your rating especially if it’s in a context of a blog because then you every time I type your restaurant steam it comes up the online war and it’s definitely not well not only is it not professional-looking but it just puts it on number one in Google.
They would say truth as the best defense is truth is a valid defense against someone who was being accused of defaming somebody and I would say yes because one of the elements of the internet or in general defamation this has to be false truth is basically a defense against internet defamation.
But as I’ve said earlier there are definitely different causes of action that we can take a look at in. One of them is in the invasion of privacy like those nude pictures just that they’re definitely true. They’re definitely your pictures but it’s not a matter of defamation, it’s a matter of invasion of privacy.
What are they because we’ve talked a lot about pictures I guess some advice you would have for people because people don’t seem to think before they post or before you send things to other people.
Once you send something to someone else they can do whatever they want with it. So when you break up and it’s nasty then your boyfriend can put those naked photos you sent to him for some reason in a loving manner on the internet.
So I would it’s best to beware before you even do anything like that then you don’t end up in the situation exactly.
And you know what Internet and privacy is an oxymoron. I have never put them together in the same context.
Once it’s out in the Internet most likely it’s going to be an Internet but you know just either on the other end side of things be careful what you say because they’re the course have started to recognize even if you are a third party provider, there has some culpability on it and as I said before some states have now enacted criminal penalties on online defamation which is kind of crossing the line on free speech but you know there are consequences to your actions just because in an internet it doesn’t mean you’re anonymous and one of the things that stops people from litigating these things especially the business context or business reviews.