Defamation vs. Libel vs. Slander: Defamation of Character on the Internet

May 8th, 2012

What do you do if you are the victim of a false statement of fact, and that is published somehow on the Internet? What do you do if you’ve been wrongly accused of defamation, libel or slander, as a result of something that you may or may not have posted on the Internet, and what is the difference between defamation versus libel versus slander? These are the types of issues that we’re going to talk about today, and hopefully by the end of this show, you’ll have a better understanding of how these concepts work.

Welcome to Defamation Law Radio. Internet defamation of character is as easy to perpetuate as a blog post, Facebook update, rating submission, or a forum comment.  Your online reputation is measured by the websites return as Google search results.  Do you know what people are saying and writing about you?

Welcome to Defamation Law Radio. My name is defamation lawyer, Enrico Schaefer. My firm specializes in defamation, libel and slander cases originating on the Internet.

So, what do you do if you are the victim of a false statement of fact, and that is published somehow on the Internet? What do you do if you’ve been wrongly accused of defamation, libel or slander, as a result of something that you may or may not have posted on the Internet, and what is the difference between defamation versus libel versus slander? These are the types of issues that we’re going to talk about today, and hopefully by the end of this show, you’ll have a better understanding of how these concepts work.

The first thing that I want to talk about is the difference between defamation versus libel versus slander. Defamation is a general category which captures both libel and slander. So, when we talk about defamation law, we’re talking about both libel and slander, on the Internet.

When we talk about libel, we’re talking about written defamation. So, someone has written something in text and published it online, on the Internet. When we talk about slander, we’re talking about defamation by the spoken word. Someone has said something, typically on a YouTube video or in an audio recording. And so, libel from “liber” in Latin, means written, and slander means “spoken.”

And, of course, because we do have, in the Internet space we have the ability to post videos, and we have the ability to post audio, there are instances where the defamation of character occurs through slander. It’s much more common for defamation of character on the Internet to occur as a result of a written entry, a comment, a blog post, an online review, or some other written form that’s posted on the Internet. So, these are the concepts that you need to understand. If someone says that they were defamed, that won’t tell you what form the defamation has taken.

Most people talk about defamation in the general sense, and it’s only when you get into defamation law do you need to understand the differences between slander and libel. The general concepts, however, are the same. There needs to be a false statement of fact, it needs to be published, it has to have the tendency to harm your reputation, and there are a variety of different theories of damages for defamation on the Internet which might come into play.

So, there are a lot of variables here. When you speak to a defamation of character attorney, you need to let that attorney know how the defamation has occurred. Try and do a screen capture of the website, so that it is preserved in case the defamatory statement is taken down at some point, you need evidence of defamation, and so you’re going to need to be able to have that evidence. If, in fact, it is a video or an audio file, oftentimes you can do a right-click on that and you can download it to your computer, or you can do a video export in order to make sure that you capture that. At a minimum, get a link to the website on the internet where the defamation has occurred, so your defamation of character attorney can do the proper analysis.

The key here is that, it is often very emotional when you believe that you have been defamed online, so you need to let the attorney do the analysis to find out whether or not this is the type of statement that would be fact or opinion. Opinions are not actionable as defamation of character. False statements of fact are actionable, but there’s a big gray area between what is a fact and what is an opinion, and you have to look at the context of the online post, you have to look at a variety of different factors.

Of course, different states have different laws which govern these principles. It has to have a tendency to harm your reputation in order to be defamation of character. So, even if it’s something that you don’t like, it has to demean you in some way and, of course, you have to have good character in order to have a loss of character.

These are the types of things that any good, competent, experienced defamation of character attorney is going to be looking at as part of an initial assessment of your defamation claim, or if you believe you’ve been falsely accused of defamation on the Internet, these are the types of issues that your attorney is going to take a look at in order to see whether or not you may or may not have a problem because you may or may not be liable under the facts as stated.

My name is Enrico Schaefer. I’m a defamation attorney practicing with Traverse Legal. Have a great day.

You’ve been listening to Defamation Law Radio, where defamation of character, slander, and libel are always the topic of the day.  Whether you are a defamation attorney or a client, we are the number one resource for all your defamation questions.