Can you be sued for trash-typing on a Facebook page? Answer: “it depends on the circumstances.” The bottom line for defamation is whether or not a false statement of fact was published (or spoken) and caused damage to the libeled party. Voicing an opinion about a person, business, event or political viewpoint is not defamatory.
Not Defamatory: I hate Jane Doe! IMO, She is a terrible choice for CEO.
Defamatory (if it’s not true): James Doe lied about that Widget deal and he stole trade secrets from his last startup partner. Don’t make him CEO.
Facebook Defamation Case Study: Local v. Local Luminary
Currently, a Facebook defamation case is going down in Tennessee. Beth York, a local Thompson Station, TN resident, posted several disparaging quips about local luminary, Donnie Cameron, on the I heart Spring Hill (TN, ya’ll!) Facebook page.
Online Accusations Lead To Facebook Defamation Lawsuit
What did York say? That Cameron was a “criminal” who was asked to leave the University of Tennessee Boosters. Unamused, Cameron slapped York with a lawsuit claiming libel, tortious interference with business relations and false light invasion of privacy.
Smartly, in addition to the lawsuit, Cameron also moved for a temporary restraining order. As such, the offending material was removed from the Internet for the duration of litigation. Now, regardless of the outcome, the offending material isn’t growing online “roots” and causing more damage to his reputation.
Defendant Fires Back With A Motion To Dismiss Facebook Defamation Claim
York filed for a summary judgment dismissal; she swears she’s telling the truth. And remember, in 95% of cases, if the statement in question is true, it’s not defamation.
We won’t hear much about this case moving forward because the judge issued a gag order, preventing both parties from pleading their case in the court of public opinion.
What Will The Plaintiff Have To Prove To Win This Facebook Defamation Lawsuit?
Since defamation requires one party to make a false statement of fact about another party, in order to win this case, Cameron will have to prove that York lied and committed Facebook defamation.
What happens if the critical information is true?
Interestingly, according to various sources, Cameron does have a bit of a past. In fact, way back in the day (1992), he spent 5 months behind bars because of a less-than-legal gambling operation.
But his jail stint happened fifteen years before Cameron was asked to step down from the University of TN boosters for allegedly “inappropriately contacting a signee.” Plus, it doesn’t seem like the Boosters were (or are) too saddened by the incident, as Cameron only had to keep away for two years, and was welcome back with open arms.
What Usually Happens When Facebook Defamation Strikes?
How many instances of Internet libel result in full-blown trial? Not many. Truth be told, the majority of Facebook defamation cases end with an initial letter from a lawyer. Why? Because most people don’t want to bother with a lawsuit and will simply remove the offending material when formally asked to do so.
When looking for a lawyer to handle your case, it is more important to find one who has successfully handled other Facebook defamation lawsuits than it is to find one in your area. Get in touch today to get started. Your reputation is in the balance.