Online Defamation Lawyer & Litigation
What Is Defamation?
More than just a negative statement, under U.S. law, defamatory declarations are a) negligently publicized, b) unprivileged, c) false statements of fact that d) cause harm.
Slander is spoken defamation; libel is written defamation.
In the U.S., different defamation standards exist for public and private citizens. Simply put, celebrities and public figures must meet the higher standard of actual malice to win defamation lawsuits. Private Citizens do not.
Defamation and Free Speech
As the saying goes, you can't scream fire in a crowded theater, cause a panic, and get away with it. Nor can you maliciously and falsely disparage another person or business online.
So, what is the line between free speech and defamation? There's no hard and fast rule, but the key in most slander and libel cases are "false statements of fact."
You're Defamed. Now What?
You've A Victim Of Online Defamation, Now What?
If someone posts a negative rant about you or your business online, it's tempting to fire back with an equally heated post. Don't do it. Feeding into an online dialog with an anonymous antagonist typically creates more problems. Doing so can embolden your detractor and push them to post more negative information.
Common Defamation Defenses
Truth: The best defense for defamation is truth. In the majority of situations, if defendants can prove their statements are true, the chances of winning the case skyrocket.
No Harm: Unless a case falls into the "per se" category, plaintiffs can't win slander or libel lawsuits unless they can prove the statement caused them harm.
I wasn't Talking About You: If plaintiffs can't prove that their respective defendants were actually referencing them, it's nearly impossible to win defamation lawsuits. This defense usually comes into play when the case involve a novel "based on a true story" or a roman a'clef.
Section 230 of the CDA: In most cases, websites can't be held liable for defamation over user content. In other words, Facebook can't be sued for libel if John Doe posts a defamatory statement on his page.
Privilege: In certain situations, the nature of a relationship supersedes slander and libel statutes. For example, it's difficult to nail someone for defamation over a private conversation with an attorney or doctor.
Defamation Then and Now
Back in the day, way before the Internet, defamatory statements only spread about as far as the circulation of the local newspaper. Victims escaped the censure that comes with a reputation attack by moving a town over.
But then came the Internet.
These days, defamation spreads faster than a brush fire -- and can do just as much damage to your reputation. Fortunately, there are ways to contain the damage -- which don't always involve a lawsuit. Talk with an attorney about the specifics of your situation to explore the best options.