Defamation: Spreading false rumors online can lead to BIG trouble.

Mad_Cabbie

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There are two main types of defamation: libel, or written defamation, and slander, or verbal defamation. When a potentially defamatory statement is made online or through social media that involves the written (or "posted") word, and so it is considered libel.



The Problem of Online Defamation
The internet and social media are certainly a great thing for people and society in general, but they are also a uniquely effective breeding ground for potentially libelous statements.

Many people have learned (to their dismay) that the internet allows people to speak their mind almost too easily. The internet is chock-full of interesting web sites where someone could intentionally or accidentally leave a potentially defamatory comment or post.

Just a few of these locations are:

  • letters to the editor of local newspapers
  • public comments on media (i.e., newspaper or magazine) web sites
  • blogs and comments to blog postings
  • social media
  • chat rooms or listservers.
While some web sites screen posts for inflammatory or illegal content, the screening systems are not geared to examine every post for defamatory content, and so many defamatory postings end up online.

What State’s Law Applies? Where Can I Sue?
This is a complicated issue that depends on what state you live in, what state the alleged defamer lives in, and the contacts that the defamer has had with your state, if any. If you think that you have been defamed online, you should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options and the best course of action.

Can You Sue an Internet Service Provider?
One reason you might want to sue the host or internet service provider (ISP) of the website that posted a defamatory statement is the "deep pockets" argument.

ISPs or website hosts might have more money -- and therefore more ability to pay a judgment -- than some blogger who posted a defamatory statement about you. But, for better or for worse, a federal law called the Communications Decency Act has specifically exempted website hosts and ISPs from most defamation claims.

Examples of Online Defamation
Let’s look at a couple of examples of the kinds of communications that might amount to online defamation. Let’s say that you have a blog and that you wrote that John Smith hit his wife two weeks ago. If this statement is not true (remember, truth is one of the absolute defenses to defamation), it is defamatory. There is no way that this statement, if false, is not defamatory.

But let’s qualify this statement. Let’s say that you wrote, “I think that John Smith hit his wife two weeks ago.” Statements of opinion are not statements of fact, and so theoretically are protected from libel suits. But is this really a statement of opinion? Sometimes statements of opinion really are viewed as statements of fact, depending on the circumstances. In this case, the average person may very well look at your statement as a statement of fact, depending on how well you know John Smith and his wife, and why you believe that Smith hit his wife.

The bottom line: Just because you phrase something as a statement of opinion -- "I think" or "I believe" -- does not automatically protect you from a defamation claim.

Let’s take another example. Let’s say that you wrote on someone else’s Facebook page that Mary Johnson was fired from her job because she made a serious mistake and, as a result, her company lost an important client. Again, if this is a false statement, it is almost certainly defamatory. But what if it is true that she made the mistake, but that the company did not lose the client? What if, in fact, her company fired her to appease the client? You have certainly written something that was false (at least in part), but maybe overall it was not defamatory.

The bottom line on this type of situation: If you are blogging or writing on your Facebook page, or submitting comments on someone else’s blog or Facebook page, make sure that you have all of your facts absolutely straight before posting your statement to the internet. Once you have clicked “send,” you can’t take it back.

Or, alternatively, if it is a close call, why say it at all? To use our example, why do you need to write on someone else’s Facebook page about Mary Johnson being fired? Unless you’re the one who fired her, you don’t know all the facts. In submitting posts or comments online or on social media, it is a good idea to exercise the utmost caution and avoid making any "gray area" statements that could be construed as defamation.

Social Media and Online Defamation Slander and Libel Nolo.com

Who knew?
 

Delta4Embassy

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Defamation all hinges on showing how the defamation cost you money. If the hit to reputation kept you from getting a job (and you can prove that it was the defamation and not something else) or something like that, you can win a defamation suit. But if you didn't suffer financially because of it, it's hard to win in court.
 
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Mad_Cabbie

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Defamation all hinges on showing how the defamation cost you money. If the hit to reputation kept you from getting a job (and you can prove that it was the defamation and not something else) or something like that, you can win a defamation suit. But if you didn't suffer financially because of it, it's hard to win in court.
This is incorrect. You most certainly can, especially if it caused emotional suffering.
 
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Mad_Cabbie

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Facebook Ex Trashing: It Can Cost You

By Geoff Williams

(Reuters) - The old maxim goes: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. For divorcing spouses, that may actually constitute legal advice in these days where Internet and social media sites have become a significant part of many people's daily lives. Divorce is an emotionally charged topic, but letting it all out in a public forum can lead you right into court, sued for libel or having a harsher judgment levied against you in a divorce settlement.

"You give up so much privacy, and if you don't understand the consequences of it, you can really have problems," says Adam Swickle, a divorce attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "The Internet is a dangerous place to comment on your divorce."

According to a 2010 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81 percent of their members said that they had seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the last five years. So if you use social media sites frequently, and you're in the midst of breaking up a marriage, consider the following:

1. What you write can get you sued.

"You can call someone an idiot or a jerk, and you're okay because it's your opinion," Swickle says. "We have freedom of speech in this country. Even if it affects your reputation, if it's the truth, you can't sue for it."

But where you might get in trouble is if you lie, warns Swickle. For instance, if you call your ex a deadbeat dad who is behind on his child support payments, or an abusive alcoholic, and none of this is true - and he or she can prove it isn't true - then you could be successfully sued for libel. But those cases are rare because they're hard to prove, says Swickle.

It's also hard to prove that a barrage of Facebook or blog posts are, say, harassment or even a form of Internet stalking, says Jacqueline Newman, the managing partner at a New York City matrimonial and divorce law firm. She says that you'd have to show evidence of damages.

But she recommends that if you have an ex who is going off the deep end, ask your lawyer to talk to your ex's lawyer. "The hope is that the lawyer will be able to control the client and explain to the client that all of this ranting online isn't going to be beneficial to their case," says Newman.

2. Even if legal, some statements can hurt you.

Short of libel, there's still a lot of trouble that you can get into. Newman once had a client who wrote a blog post trashing her soon-to-be ex. "She said he was a liar, a cheat, a thief and couldn't be trusted," Newman says.

While it may have felt good for Newman's client to get all of that off her chest, the blog was read by her client's husband's boss. "It had a direct impact on his career which therefore had a direct impact on his financial ability to provide for her and their children in the future," says Newman. "It was a very expensive blog for both of them."

Also, those rants, missives and photographs are now often getting handed over in paper form to a grim-faced judge who is deciding which parent is the more deserving of full custody, or how much alimony should be shelled out.

"Judges don't like reading those blog posts, tweets or Facebook status updates," Newman says. "Especially if you have children. These things don't go away, and a judge will tell you that your children will learn to tweet, and they'll read what you write in the heat of the moment. It's awful. Loose fingers can be worse than loose lips....."

Facebook Ex Trashing It Can Cost You
 

Delta4Embassy

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Defamation all hinges on showing how the defamation cost you money. If the hit to reputation kept you from getting a job (and you can prove that it was the defamation and not something else) or something like that, you can win a defamation suit. But if you didn't suffer financially because of it, it's hard to win in court.
This is incorrect. You most certainly can, especially if it caused emotional suffering.
Can sue for anything. Whether you're likely to win is another question.
 

JakeStarkey

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. . . that he stole from Tom's dresser.
 

Roadrunner

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Defamation all hinges on showing how the defamation cost you money. If the hit to reputation kept you from getting a job (and you can prove that it was the defamation and not something else) or something like that, you can win a defamation suit. But if you didn't suffer financially because of it, it's hard to win in court.
This is incorrect. You most certainly can, especially if it caused emotional suffering.
Can sue for anything. Whether you're likely to win is another question.
If you win, you still have to collect.

Life's a bitch sometimes.
 

InfoQuest

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Defamation all hinges on showing how the defamation cost you money. If the hit to reputation kept you from getting a job (and you can prove that it was the defamation and not something else) or something like that, you can win a defamation suit. But if you didn't suffer financially because of it, it's hard to win in court.
This is incorrect. You most certainly can, especially if it caused emotional suffering.
Can sue for anything. Whether you're likely to win is another question.
One of the earliest cases involving online defamation was Slater vs. Paolini in Ohio (1994). The defendant (Paolini) made defamatory remarks about the plaintiff (Slater), who claimed the remarks damaged his reputation. The remarks by Paolini were untrue and he settled out of court (a five-figure settlement).
 

Gracie

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Hogwash. I know a guy that sued...and lost. Why? Because he did not have "clean hands". In short, he dished much worse than what was dished at him. If he woulda kept his yapper shut and just collected what was said against him and not respond, he would have won. His hands were "dirty" too.
 

HenryBHough

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If one wishes to sue for defamation he or she must first be defamed.

How many hours might it take for the entire population of a courtroom to quit laughing were a plaintiff whose real name bears no semblance to an imaginary screen name concerning which shit was spoken?

Or would it be a matter of days?

Moral: If you want to have grounds for a suit, blog under your real name. First name, middle initial, surname. Know anybody who even might be doing that?
 

InfoQuest

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Hogwash. I know a guy that sued...and lost. Why? Because he did not have "clean hands". In short, he dished much worse than what was dished at him. If he woulda kept his yapper shut and just collected what was said against him and not respond, he would have won. His hands were "dirty" too.
Yes, you are unlikely to succeed in a legal action if you are also guilty of defamation.

That wasn't the situation in the Slater vs. Paolini case in Ohio. Paolini was angry during an online discussion and made false claims about Slater, but not vice-versa.
 

InfoQuest

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If one wishes to sue for defamation he or she must first be defamed.
For the sake of accuracy:

If one wishes to win a suit for defamation he or she must first be defamed.

blog under your real name. First name, middle initial, surname.
True. Loss of reputation or other damage is not provable if you are posting messages using a screen name and your real identity remains hidden.
 
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Gracie

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Can't defame a user name if it isn't your real name. Which is why most message boards do not allow personal info to be posted i.e. first and last name, place of employment, address, google map showing persons home or business, phone numbers, etc.

In short...getting all pissed off on a message board and going to that extent due to a verbal argument means the one doing that shit is unstable and a jackass.
 

BlueGin

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Cyberstalking is a fourth degree felony in some states. Just prove pattern of conduct involving 2 or more incidents directly or through third parties ...of monitoring, following or threatening.

They are starting to crack down on internet crimes.
 

BlueGin

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People online should just not do anything illegal and they won't have to worry about it. Just like in offline life. Problem solved.
 

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