When considering the modern landscape of communication and news-gathering, we can all agree that the use of blogs and social networking outlets are increasing in their popularity and usefulness. Unfortunately, this incredible rise in use and visibility also increases the risks of online defamation.
Defamation occurs when someone online writes something that falsely and negatively affects another person’s reputation and/or business. It’s vital to consider that anyone can immediately publish anything they desire to the web, whether it be factual or needlessly inflammatory. Therefore the role of defamation law is quickly becoming more significant.
Let’s briefly consider three important points about online defamation:
What are the specifics of defamation?
Defamation is generally classified as either libel or slander. Libel requires that the offense is in written form, so basically anything that can be read as text on a website or blog. Slander is when the defamation is spoken, or occurs in a spoken medium. This would include online video posts. Defamation can occur in something as seemingly simple as a tweet, if those characters convey a false and damaging statement.
How can I avoid it?
If you are a blogger or you handle the internet presence and content of a small business, how can you make sure you are free of potential defamation? First of all, always be sure that your post or your tweet is true and verifiable. Try and just stick to facts. There is nothing wrong with sharing your personal opinions, but be sure that these are clearly labeled as such. You do not want the line between your opinion and actual facts to be blurred or indistinguishable.
Keep potentially controversial opinions to yourself if you want to be on the safe side. Also, it is a reasonable idea to refrain from linking to potentially offensive or defamatory web content. Do not even re-tweet such information.
How can I combat it?
If you end up as the victim of what you believe is online defamation, what can be done? Blogs, forums, and social networks inherently present sources of liability for someone who believes their reputation has been damaged. You can use these as evidence in a lawsuit. Yes, you can definitely sue someone who has authored a libelous post or has slandered you via audio or video. You must show that the statement was false and that it directly harmed you and your reputation.
A large problem with starting an online defamation lawsuit can occur when the offending poster is anonymous. Someone has to be proven to be liable in order to collect damages. An attorney with experience in dealing with cyberlaw and online defamation, such as Kelly / Warner Law, can greatly improve your chances of victory.
Always be aware of your online reputation. Opinions are constantly expressed on the internet, and it seems that most can be negative. Be sure that you are not joining in a negative conversation as it relates to your online reputation and business presence.
New and changing media technologies can bring about new issues when it comes to defamation. These can be dealt with swiftly, or avoided altogether, with vigilance and positive action.
Photo credit: Chung Wing Yeung / Flickr