Table of Contents
- Social Media and Online Defamation
- The Problem of Online Defamation
- What State’s Law Applies? Where Can I Sue?
- Can You Sue an Internet Service Provider?
- Examples of Online Defamation
- Defamation and Social Media: What You Need To Know
- Who Do You Sue?
- What Constitutes Defamation Online?
- Learn More about Defamation and Social Media
- Can You Be Sued for a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram Post?
- 3 Social Media Mistakes That Could Get You Sued!
- Costly Social Media Mistakes That Can Bankrupt a Blogger
- Playing it safe with your social media marketing.
- Social Media Mistake #1: Libel and Slander
- How to Avoid Libel and Slander :
- Social Media Mistakes #2: Copyright Infringement
- Copyright protection means only the creator has the right to:
- How to Avoid Copyright Infringement
- Social Media Mistakes #3: Misappropriation / Invasion of Privacy
- How to Avoid Misappropriation / Invasion of Privacy
- Social Media Mistakes – More Reading…
- Can you sue for a defamatory post?
- How to Report Slander and Libel to Facebook
- 1. Facebook and Defamation
- 2. What are Libel and Slander?
- 3. How Do I Report Libel and Slander on Facebook?
- 4. Work With a Defamation Removal Attorney to Remove False and Libelous Attacks on Facebook
- Q771: Someone is posting false information about me on Facebook/Twitter/a social networking site. Is this a criminal offence?
- Defamed on social media
- How do I instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
Social Media and Online Defamation
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 — such as via Facebook or Linkedin — that involves the written (or “posted”) word, and so it is considered libel.
In this article, we’ll discuss key legal issues related to online defamation, and we’ll look at some real-life examples. (For in-depth information on defamation law, check out all of the articles in Nolo’s Defamation, Libel & Slander section.
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 like Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter, and
- 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.
Are Opinions Protected?
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.
What If a Statement Is Only Partially True?
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.
Defamation and Social Media: What You Need To Know
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Created by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors.
With the rise of social networks, content aggregation sites, and online commentary, the risk of defamatory content and false statements reaching a broad audience has increased tremendously in recent years. Sites are designed to encourage and incentivize the sharing of information without any fact checking or regulation. A Facebook status update or tweet about a negative employment incident may receive dozens of ‘likes’ and comments, a searing Yelp review may be seen and rated by tens of thousands of users, and an edited photograph posted on Reddit may garner millions of views.
In today’s social media world, it has become easier and more rewarding than ever for bloggers or online users to share false information about a person or business. Though online content is occasionally moderated for pornographic or legal issues involving other inappropriate elements, most content is unregulated for defamatory elements. It’s important, therefore, that consumers, sharers, and potential victims better understand the landscape of online defamation and defamation law.
Who Do You Sue?
Plaintiffs who have suffered online defamation often go after their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the website that hosts the defamatory content at issue, like Facebook or Google or Yelp. That’s because these companies are wealthy and can afford to pay the plaintiff’s damage demand in defamation cases. In the United States, however, pursuing an ISP or a website is not a legitimate legal option for a plaintiff making a defamation claim. In 1995, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which protects ISPs, social media platforms and website hosts from defamation claims.
Plaintiffs who believe they have been defamed online should bring a claim against the person or entity that actually made the defamatory statement. In doing so, the plaintiff will have to file suit in an appropriate state court. The appropriate state court should be determined after a jurisdictional analysis is conducted by an attorney.
What Constitutes Defamation Online?
Defamation is generally defined as a false, published statement that is injurious to the plaintiff’s reputation. An online posting, even on an obscure website, will likely be seen by a few people, thus satisfying the publication requirement.
Statements of Fact
A plaintiff cannot succeed in his or her online defamation claim if the defendant’s defamatory statement was true. For example, if a customer posts a review of your business on Yelp, claiming that there was a rat infestation, you may sue them for defamation. You would then have to prove that there was no rat infestation, and thus, the defendant’s statement was false.
Following that, the defendant may try to argue that the claimed rat infestation was an opinion. Opinions are privileged under the law. As a result, plaintiffs cannot bring a defamation claim for an opinion. Importantly, however, an opinion that may be viewed as a statement of fact by a reasonable person will be deemed a statement of fact. The courts may interpret, “I think that has a rat infestation problem,” as a statement of fact.
Modified photos that scandalize persons or businesses are clear defamation violation and are quite popular on social media. It is common for modified photos or video to go ‘viral’. The less obvious and absurd the modification, the more likely it is that a court will find it defamatory.
As a sharer or creator of content, always make sure that any information about a person or entity is truthful and would not be considered injurious to their reputation.
Learn More about Defamation and Social Media
Social media has become a liability landmine. Whether you or someone you love has been a victim of defamation or has been accused of defaming someone, you’ll want to consult a professional to best understand your situation. Contact a local defamation attorney to learn more about what you can do about defamation and defamation accusations.
This is Day 28 of our new series: 30 days to a better online reputation. Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss a single important lesson!
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Mark Twain
There are few justifiable reasons for getting heavy-handed in social media. When you’re facing a defamatory reputation attack is one of them. It’s tough enough to protect your reputation from justified criticisms when you mess up, but it’s just plain unfair when someone attacks your good name without merit.
A reputation attack of this kind still requires a softly-softly approach, you don’t want to stir up any support for your attacker by being too heavy-handed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t release the hounds when warranted.
The non-legal legal approach
According to the blog search engine Technorati, 94% of bloggers will retract, edit, or delete incorrect information if you contact them. That’s good news, because that’s the approach you should take when being defamed online. Rather than hand this immediately to your attorney and incur the extra expense, your first contact should be a direct email or letter. The tone of the letter should be friendly but firm. Explain that the author of the defamatory content has made a mistake in their statement. Provide them with correct information and explain that the continued publication of the inaccurate comments will hurt you financially.
Your goal here is to avoid putting their backs against the wall. If you start out with a full on “cease and desist” letter, you may panic them in to doing something that could be further detrimental to your reputation—such as trying to invoke a David versus Goliath story with their audience. Instead, a casual email will suffice in letting them know that they have made a mistake, showing them how to make things right, and subtly implying that any lack of cooperation will leave you with no choice but to pass the matter to your legal counsel and pursue litigious recourse.
Delete, delete, delete
When making your request, it’s important to spell out exactly the action you wish the defaming detractor to take. If you don’t make your demands clear, then you run the risk that the author will do nothing more than post an excerpt of your email to the original article. That’s not good enough.
No one ever reads the retraction section of a newspaper. Okay, perhaps a few do, but only after they’re done with the obituaries. It’s the same with online publications—no one ever cares about the follow-up post or the footnote edit. Certainly Google doesn’t care. The negative story is what garnered all of the attention, all of the back links, and all of the social shares. The negative story is what Google will show when anyone searches for you.
What you should always request is a full deletion of the defaming statements. The article, blog post, tweet, or status update should be fully deleted. That is the only guaranteed way to avoid it showing up in Google. If they’re not willing to delete it completely, then the next best solution is for it to be completely redacted of any defamatory statements. They should change the title of the post, remove your name from the headline, and make sure that anyone reading the page quickly understands that the author made a mistake. If you can also get them to add a “noindex” tag to the HTML, then that will instruct Google not to show the page in its search results.
Taking legal action
If you are unable to get the author to comply with your request, then it’s time to take legal action. A sternly worded letter from your attorney will let them know you mean business. Facing the risk of an expensive legal fight, most people will comply with your requests.
If they don’t then it’s time to put the matter before a judge. Defamation laws are tricky to understand. You can’t sue someone for defamation just because you didn’t like the review they did of your company. A successful claim must prove that the statement was false, caused financial harm, and was made with no attempt to research the truth. If you happen to be a notable person, such as a celebrity or public official, you also have to prove malice. That’s a lot of proof needed.
Assuming you can make a solid case, you’ll win a court order, forcing the author to remove their libelous statements. If they won’t, are unable to, or you’ve sued a “John Doe” because you don’t know the true identity of the detractor, then your court order can be sent to Google, requesting that it remove the content from its index.
Defamation will be your strongest argument in any legal remedy, but that’s not your only option. If appropriate, you can make claims for copyright or trademark infringement, but again you can’t get a negative review removed just because someone used your trademark in their write up.
Kick ‘em where it hurts
Your goal is to get the inaccurate information removed from the web. While a court victory is the only guaranteed method to achieve this, it’s not the only way.
Report them to their registrar – some domain name registries have strict policies that prevent web sites from making money from defamatory attacks or from engaging in criminal activities.
Report them to their hosting company – in the same manner, check to see if the blog or news site is violating any terms and conditions of their web host provider.
Report them to their social network – while Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest et al might not care that someone is defaming you, if that detractor is using your own trademarked name as their profile name, then you might be able to gain ownership of the account by submitting evidence of your trademark.
Report them to Google – if you find that your detractor is violating Google’s guidelines about search engine optimization (SEO) spam, let the search giant know. Black hat SEO practices get web sites banned from Google’s index every day. Likewise, if you see that they are using, and abusing, Google’s AdSense ads then you can submit a complaint and have their earnings invalidated. Cutting off the income of someone defaming you is one way to get their compliance.
These four tactics are a last resort approach for removing defamation. While all are perfectly legal, some of your stakeholders might question you for taking such extreme steps. Use with caution.
Even if you have a strong case for defamation and you’re pursuing a legal resolution, it can be many months before you are victorious. In the meantime, the inaccurate statements are out there, hurting your online reputation. If that’s the case, you may decide to address the libelous statements head on.
I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty; and besides, the pig likes it.
If you decide to leave a comment on the offending blog post, or share a Facebook update with your side of the story, make it succinct and to the point. Something along the lines of, “The statements made are 100% false and we have reached out to try and provide accurate information. Unfortunately the author is unwilling to remove their defamatory comments so we regretfully have no choice but to pursue this matter in the courts.” After you share your side of the story, try to avoid being drawn in any further. Going back and forth with your detractor—or their supporters—will only inflict further damage to your reputation. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty; and besides, the pig likes it.”
Watch for the echo chamber
Even once you secure a legal victory, your work is not done. You will need to be diligent to monitor for any reoccurrence of the inaccurate statements. The last thing you want is for a defamatory statement to become an urban legend that gets twisted and contorted until everyone assumes it to be true.
Likewise, you don’t want any echoes to show up in Google’s search results. If you’re unable to get your detractor’s attack removed from Google—because you couldn’t prove defamation due to the comments being true—then you’re going to have to work hard to convince Google that it shouldn’t be shown in its search results. How do you do that? You make sure that Google focuses only on the positive web content that you’ve created and on Day 29, you’ll learn how to do just that.
Can You Be Sued for a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram Post?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms provide millions of users across the world with a connection to family and friends through status updates and photos. While the ability to share your thoughts and moments with your network has never been easier, posting certain information on social media can provide the basis for a lawsuit. Hutcherson Law helps clients obtain relief from social media posts concerning:
- Defamation of Character
A Facebook post that defames the character of another person can be grounds for a lawsuit. To prove defamation of character, the victim must show that a false statement of and concerning the victim was published, caused the victim injury, and is not protected by any privilege. In addition to posting the defamatory statement, privately sending or publicly sharing a defamatory post with your network may also constitute defamation.
- Invasion of Privacy
An invasion of privacy on social media occurs when one-person posts embarrassing or private information about or photos of another person without their knowledge or consent.
- Breach of Contract
Many employers have rules and regulations about what employees can and cannot discuss in public (including on online platforms).
Harassment occurs when someone repeatedly behaves in a manner that is perceived as intrusive or threatening. Many states have enacted laws to prohibit and prosecute online harassment such as intimidating behavior, cyberbullying, and even creating fake social media profiles, fake online dating profiles, and impersonating another person or company.
If you believe that someone is using or has used Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in a manner that defames you, harasses you, invades your privacy, or is in breach of a contract, contact Hutcherson Law today! Our team of highly skilled Internet attorneys protect our clients against invasion of privacy, online harassment, defamation, and removing harmful posts fast.
3 Social Media Mistakes That Could Get You Sued!
By: Ruth Awad Topics: Get Web Traffic More posts about: Social Media Marketing
Social media mistakes that can cost a blogger their business
In this article, guest contributor, Ruth Awad explores the consequences of social media and blogging gone wrong!
Essential reading for every blogger and their team!
Costly Social Media Mistakes That Can Bankrupt a Blogger
Social Media Mistakes are not exclusive to what you may say on Facebook or Twitter – they impact everything you say in your blog, email, and all forms of digital content.
Most entrepreneurs and bloggers know their industry inside and out. But when it comes to how the law applies to their online marketing? Not so much.
The good news: you don’t have to be a legal whiz to know what online marketing mistakes can land your business in trouble.
Why Social Media Mistakes Matter
When entrepreneurs and small businesses are sued over reputational harm – including libel, slander, and violation of privacy – it costs $50,000 on average, according to Insurance Journal.
One misconception is that small businesses or solopreneurs don’t get sued, but the data says otherwise. According to the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, small businesses bore 81 percent of all business lawsuit costs in 2008, plus a Harris poll found that more than a third of small businesses surveyed had been sued before.
Worth noting: a lawsuit is more than just a tangle of legal bills and time spent in and out of the courtroom. Being sued is never a good look for anyone and it can hurt your brand’s reputation.
With that in mind, let’s look at some common social media marketing mistakes that can lead to legal headaches and discover ways you can avoid them.
Social Media Mistake #1: Libel and Slander
Most of us have said unkind things in the heat of the moment, but at what point does our statement become defamation? Generally speaking, a statement is defamatory if it is…
- Falsely stated as fact. In most places, a truthful statement can’t be defamatory. The same typically goes for opinions.
- Harmful to the subject’s reputation. Hurt feelings usually aren’t enough. Damages need to be more tangible, like getting fired, losing a promotion, or receiving hate mail.
- Communicated to a third party. Comments written in a private diary usually don’t rise to the level of defamation.
Libel and slander are two types of defamation. If you write a harmful and untrue statement about someone, you’ve committed libel. Speak those words out loud, and it’s slander.
Sadly, the Internet makes both of these very easy to commit, especially after a perceived slight. Take, for example, this report from The Telegraph in the UK, about a freelance typist’s Twitter rant. She complained because a company was allegedly late to pay her. The company sued her for defamation, and battling that kind of lawsuit isn’t cheap. The report notes she could end up spending £100,000 to defend herself.
And just because social media seems to be dominated by the written word doesn’t mean you can’t accidentally slander someone, too. Live-streaming, podcasts, and even Snapchat can capture you at your mudslinging worst and broadcast it for the world to see.
How to Avoid Libel and Slander :
As a web entrepreneur, you probably have all of your social media accounts open and ready for business at all times. That makes it imperative that you…
- Never post in anger. Count to 10. Go for a walk. Take a deep breath. Just make sure the anger passes before you publish a word.
- Check your facts. If you want to publicly claim something is true, make sure it is before you post.
- Make your context clear. What you see as an obvious exaggeration may be insulting to someone else.
- Be careful with hashtags. Adding “#crook” may strike you as funny, but you can’t be sure everyone will take it as a joke.
- Avoid modifying photos and videos. Images can be defamatory, too, so don’t alter them to make someone look bad.
No matter the facts and your understanding of them, it is wise to take a deep breath and think twice before responding.
When it comes to litigation, ignorance is no defense… one throwaway comment could quite literally cost you your business.
Most importantly, be doubly careful when you’re referring to private citizens. While anyone can be defamed, laws are usually more protective of regular Joes and Janes.
Social Media Mistakes #2: Copyright Infringement
Copyright infringement is the use of someone’s copyrighted work without their permission. That seems simple enough, but how do you figure out what’s copyrighted?
An idea can’t be copyrighted, but if someone puts that idea into a tangible medium, such as writing, music, film, photography, or art, the resulting material is automatically copyright protected.
The creator doesn’t have to do anything other than create a work to get that sweet copyright protection. They don’t have to register it (although they can), publish it, or put a © on it. They don’t even have to put much effort into defending it.
So if you grab an online image for your latest tweet or use your favorite song to score your YouTube tutorial, you might have to pay up.
Here are just a few examples of businesses facing legal woes for what may have been unintentional infringement:
- According to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the owner of an online travel agency was recently ordered to pay $24,000 to a Hawaiian landscape photographer. Her mistake? Using the photographer’s work on her website without permission.
- In 2014, The Verge reported that YouTube star Michelle Phan faced a lawsuit for improperly using music owned by Ultra Records. The company sought the maximum damages: $150,000.
Some entrepreneurs think they can avoid copyright infringement by making changes to the original material, sort of like what artists are accusing Snapchat of doing, according to The Ringer.
Copyright protection means only the creator has the right to:
- Modify the work into something new.
- Reproduce the work in its original form.
- Distribute the work to the public.
- Display the work to the public.
- Perform the work for the public.
Do any of these things without permission, and you risk being accused of copyright infringement.
How to Avoid Copyright Infringement
Use work that you have permission to share or work that belongs to the public domain (see: Shakespeare).
These pointers can help:
- Get familiar with your country’s fair use / fair dealing laws. These make certain exceptions to copyright infringement. For example, US fair use laws may allow you to use copyrighted material without permission for criticism, commentary, parody, education, news reports, and research.
- Look into the copyright of any material you want to share online. Obtain permission from the copyright holder before you publish it to your social media accounts or website.
- Be honest about how you intend to use the material. Make sure the license allows you to use the material for your business.
Finally, when in doubt, you may want to link to the original source rather than publishing the work directly. It demonstrates a good-faith effort to credit the creator.
Social Media Mistakes #3: Misappropriation / Invasion of Privacy
This one may make you scratch your head – how could you possibly invade someone’s privacy via your social media marketing? Let’s look at some types of privacy invasion that might make it clearer:
- False-light publicity. Privacy laws make it illegal to spread misleading information about someone, especially if it’s highly offensive or embarrassing. Say, for example, you sell diet supplements online. Posting photos of unsuspecting people with the caption, “Another future client,” could land you in court.
- Misappropriation. People also have a right to control their image and name. Using either to promote your business without their permission is called misappropriation. You’ve probably heard about celebrities suing companies for using their image, such as retired NBA star Tim Duncan suing a San Antonio real estate agent, but private citizens sue over misappropriation, too. According to the Courthouse News Service, five women sued their cosmetic surgeon after she posted their before and after pictures to promote her business.
- Public disclosure of private facts. Clearly, there’s some information people want to keep private. And if you communicate these facts to a wide audience, like ESPN reporter Adam Schefter did when he tweeted New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul’s medical records, you risk getting sued for invasion of privacy.
So how could these situations apply to you? Let’s say you want to give a public shout-out to your favorite customer. If you didn’t get permission to use your customer’s name and image in the post, they could sue you for invading their privacy.
How to Avoid Misappropriation / Invasion of Privacy
Perhaps the first thing you want to do is put yourself in the position of the subject of your post. You probably don’t want the world to know your…
- Medical information.
- Employment background.
- Financial woes.
- Sexual history.
So don’t to that to other folks!
Next, be sure to get permission before you share any information about another person on social media. That is perhaps your best defense against a public disclosure or misappropriation claim.
Additional links to help you avoid social media blunders:
- The United States Copyright Office. In particular, you may want to visit its search tool to find out if the material you’re using is copyrighted.
- NOLO.com on Defamation Law. This is a great resource on defamation law. The articles are free of legalese and cover just about every aspect of libel and slander cases.
- The Social Media Law Bulletin. Produced by Norton Rose Fulbright, this site aims to keep businesses informed about social media issues.
- Wikimedia Commons. Go here for free images, sounds, and other multimedia files you can use on your social media accounts (but always read the fine print first).
These tools and the tips outlined above make it less likely to make a mistake, but your second line of defense is insurance.
Consider having General Liability Insurance that can cover your legal expenses when your business accused defamation, copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy – just in case.
Social Media Mistakes – More Reading…
Ignorance is no defence on Twitter and Facebook, warn legal experts
10 things you should know about … libel
A Writer’s Guide to Defamation and Invasion of Privacy
How to Write a Legal Disclaimer for Your Business
Sample website disclaimer
About the Author: Ruth Awad is a content strategist and editor at Insureon, an online small business insurance agency.
Can you sue for a defamatory post?
Can you sue for a defamatory Facebook or Twitter post?
Bottom line YES. You can sue for a defamatory post. However, in order to increase your chances of successfully sue for defamatory content from a social network, each case must be individually analyzed.
Bear in mind that not all offensive posts are actionable.
First, defamation is usually divided into two categories; libel and slander:
a. Libel is actually the correct term for any harmful and defamatory content posted on Facebook, as it involves a false written statement damaging a person’s reputation and published to a third party.
b. Slander, on the other hand, is a false spoken statement damaging a person’s reputation and made to a third party.
Second, to prove defamation of character, the victim has to prove the following:
1. That the person made a FALSE STATEMENT that was published mainly publicly. (That means to show that someone saw the comment)
2. INJURY. It means that the statement must be damaging to the individual, including to his or her reputation. This may require that the victim shows how he or she was damaged from the statement, such as being ostracized from a social group or losing business. (i.e. statements that a person is professionally incompetent, a “con artist” etc)
Third. However, there is possible defense to a defamation lawsuit. Subsequently, it is NOT defamatory for example:
1. To express a negative opinion or feedback about a person or business. Provided obviously that it is respectful and not insulting.
2. To repeat a truthful statement about someone, even if the statement may damage that person’s reputation.
Fourth, depending on the seriousness of the libel, it would be possible to claim a financial compensation as well.
Nevertheless, there can be mitigating circumstances if the person publicly apologizes and quickly removes the post or tweet.
Finally, what would be the recommended course of action?
If the statement is definitely libelous, – before taking the matter to Court, – we would recommend sending a strong letter before claim. The letter would give the opportunity to discontinue the illegal conduct by demanding:
1. For the immediate cease of the unlawful defamation post, providing us with prompt written assurance of this cease within ten (10) days.
2. For a public apology to the victim
3. Furthermore, in case of noncompliance, the client would be entitled to seek in Court monetary damages, an equitable relief for the defamation. Plus, court costs and Lawyer’s fees.
We hope you find this information useful. Thank you very much for your attention. Should you be affected by a defamatory post or any other legal matter, please kindly contact us. Our website is www.bestsolicitorsinspain.com
We look forward to helping you and the benefit of our “know-how”.
Mr Oscar Ricor
“NON-PRACTISING ENGLISH SOLICITOR IN ENGLAND AND WALES”, under the “Solicitors Regulation Authority” (SRA) SRA number 519196 and practicing Spanish Solicitor.
How to Report Slander and Libel to Facebook
1. Facebook and Defamation
Almost everyone is on Facebook. Literally. Statistically, Facebook’s monthly active users exceed 2 billion people, more than one-quarter of the world’s population. Even if someone doesn’t actually have a Facebook profile, they’ve most likely heard of it or had some experience related to it. Since its inception from the dorm room of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has grown to become the world’s biggest and most popular social media platform.
What is Facebook?
Originally created as a Harvard University student directory featuring basic information and photos, Facebook quickly evolved and spread across U.S. campuses, gaining traction as the premier social network for college students. Eventually, it morphed into an all encompassing online profile, allowing for pictures, private messaging, video upload, even payment platform.
While Facebook has connected the world and allowed for too many people to count to reconnect with their former high childhood best friend, it has also caused great harm and stress for many people. Unfortunately, connecting so many people may come at a cost, and is used by a weapon and malicious tool by many. At the forefront of the malicious attacks is cyber-bullying, an increasingly popular trend in America and across the globe. For parties targeted by cyber-bullies on platforms such as Facebook, it can have catastrophic and tragic results.
Fortunately, Facebook has enacted a comprehensive reporting and privacy system in place to curb such abuse, coupled with anti-bullying campaigns and discouragement. Doing so has enabled them to connect the world, all while helping keep those connected, safe from abuse, defamation, and malicious attacks. However, sometimes malicious attacks and defamatory posts do slip through the cracks of Facebook’s security and privacy policies, requiring an injured party to act swiftly and efficiently.
Defamation Law Fact: There are an estimated 83 million fake Facebook profiles, 4.75 billion pieces of content shared daily, and 300 million photo uploads per day. Sometimes, Facebook’s security checks fail to catch certain defamatory content, so staying vigilant and taking a proactive approach towards maintaining your online, digital footprint is critical for protecting your reputation.
If you have been the victim of a post, video, or other attack on Facebook that you believe constitutes defamation, slander, or libel, you may want to learn of your legal rights and how to proceed further. Stop the abuse and attacks today by contacting the Internet defamation removal attorneys of Minc Law, who will fight to remove any offensive content harming your reputation from Facebook. To arrange a free, confidential legal consultation call (216) 373-7706 today.
2. What are Libel and Slander?
In order to increase your chances of successfully removing defamatory content from Facebook, you first need to understand the different types of defamation that exist. Defamation is generally divided into two categories; libel and slander.
- Libel is actually the correct term for any harmful and defamatory content posted on Facebook, as it involves a false written statement damaging a person’s reputation and published to a third party.
- Slander, on the other hand, is often thought to be a written statement, when in fact it is a false spoken statement damaging a person’s reputation and made to a third party.
Using “slander” as the term for false and defamatory information posted online is a misnomer, and “libel” should be used instead. Both of these terms fall under the blanket legal term of “defamation,” the act of damaging the good reputation of a person.
Defamation Law Fact: Defamation is a tort, meaning that it is a civil offense or wrong and not a criminal offense. Generally speaking, civil offenses torts are violations of a private duty, while criminal offenses are violations of a public duty.
What Does a Person Have to Prove to Establish Defamation?
While it is important to note that each state may have slight variations on what constitutes defamation, there are however some generally accepted elements of defamation that are ingrained in American law that apply to all defamation actions. If you believe that you have been defamed on Facebook, make sure the statement or content checks off the four below boxes.
- The statement is false: In order for a statement to be considered defamatory, it has to be false. Truth and opinion are two of the most common defenses to defamation, and truthful statements do not generally warrant a defamation action. Even if the statement made is horrible or offensive, if it’s true, then you most likely won’t succeed in your claim.
- The statement is unprivileged: An unprivileged statement is a statement not protected under free speech protections granted to parties commencing a legal or moral duty. Under the First Amendment, the United States Constitution grants the right of free speech to every citizen. However, there are certain situations where public policy takes precedence and allows potentially defamatory statements to be made without repercussion. Such statements are covered under the legal concept of “privilege.” The Constitution recognizes that there are some statements that are so inherent to the core of democracy and free speech, that people shouldn’t be afraid to make them or fear being sued. For example, legislators enjoy certain immunities for statements and actions made during the course of their legislative work, in order to create a fluid channel for legislative drafting.
- The statement was published to a third party: A statement is considered “published” when it is communicated to at least one other person. Most people assume a “published statement” means one that is printed in the newspaper or circulated in the media, however, publishing is as simple as making a defamatory statement to your local neighborhood grocer, or colleague. As long as a third party, apart from the defendant, hears or reads a false statement, there has been publication.
- The statement caused injury: The law was created and implemented a means for rectifying injuries. In order to bring a successful defamation suit and receive due compensation, a plaintiff needs to produce sufficient proof of an actual injury. For example, proving a false and defamatory statement led to a loss of business or customers is sufficient evidence of injury. Or, maybe you were denied a raise at work, and ostracized by coworkers.
Defamation Law Fact: Keep in mind that due to Facebook’s diversity and global reach, content or posts that are disagreeable or disturbing to you, may be the norm elsewhere and not in violation of Facebook’s Community Standards.
Private vs. Public Figures
In a defamation case, all plaintiffs are required to demonstrate the defendant was at fault by making false statements damaging the reputation of the plaintiff. But, our government has placed emphasis on the ability to speak freely about certain individuals, establishing different burdens for private and public plaintiffs must meet in order to succeed in a defamation claim.
Chances are, you aren’t a celebrity or popular public official, and haven’t opened up yourself to a certain degree of public critique and gossip, therefore you should understand as a private individual, your burden for proving defamation is much easier. You are only required to prove a defendant negligently made a defamatory statement, while public figures must prove actual malice, or a knowing falsity of the statements made.
|Key Differences||Private Individual||Public Figure|
|Burden of proof||Must prove negligence when bringing a defamation claim||Must prove actual malice when bringing a defamation claim|
|Voluntary exposure||Individuals who have not “voluntarily exposed themselves to increased risk of injury from defamatory falsehood”||Individuals who have “voluntarily exposed themselves to increased risk of injury from defamatory falsehood”|
|Access||Lack of access to public media platforms to counter defamatory and false statements made||A famous individual, or person of public interest, including celebrities, athletes, and politicians|
|Additional differences||Some states do impose a higher burden on plaintiffs for statements that are made about a private individual, but of public concern||Public figures also include “including “limited purpose public figures,” who have thrust themselves into the spotlight of a particular public controversy|
Keep in mind when bringing a claim for defamation, courts seek to try and return your reputation back to its original form, before the defamatory statements were made. Clearly, this is a hard task, and may seem impossible, but many reputations have been restored and statements forgotten about over the years. Other times, courts will order the defendant pay money to a plaintiff for the damage caused.
Courts strive to draw a fine line between free speech and defamatory statements, but sometimes the line becomes muddled and grey. If you are unsure about where a statement concerning your reputation falls on the scale, reach out to an Internet defamation lawyer to help clarify this for you and formulate an effective takedown game-plan.
Defamation Law Fact: In 2015, a radio station general manager sued a woman over a Facebook post implying a woman’s inebriation was the cause of death of her child. In one of the largest private defamation lawsuit settlements, the plaintiff was awarded $500,000 in actual and punitive damages.
3. How Do I Report Libel and Slander on Facebook?
Facebook is one of the most popular and heavily trafficked sites on the Internet. People use Facebook for a variety of reasons, from connecting with friends, colleagues, and family, to following popular music artists and politicians, to finding new jobs. However, connecting the world at the click of a button has a dark side, specifically disseminating and disclosing private information certain individuals would prefer to keep private and not leak to the world.
Fortunately, Facebook users should take solace in the fact that Facebook has a comprehensive and well-designed security system for identifying and reporting abuse.
Facebook’s Community Standards
Facebook’s Community Standards requires each user to agree certain standards and policies in order to safely and securely share information. Like most users, you most likely breezed over them when signing up for Facebook, however, if you go back and read them carefully, you will see that Facebook strongly discourages users from making harmful and malicious statements about other persons. Facebook outlines the following content as inappropriate and in violation of their Community Standards. If you want to report a user for their posts and content on Facebook, make sure it falls under one of the below categories.
- Direct Threats
- Dangerous Organizations
- Bullying and Harassment
- Attacks on Public Figures
- Criminal Activity
- Sexual Violence and Exploitation
- Sale of Regulated Goods (including prescription drugs, marijuana, and firearms)
Defamation Law Fact: Over 16 million business Facebook pages have been created since 2013, and over 92% of marketers reported that Facebook and other social media platforms are critical for business growth. Make sure to keep a watchful eye over your business’s Facebook profile and reputation, as failing to protect your business’s online reputation could result in loss of market share or customer base, ultimately, leading to its closing.
If you believe that a post has violated any of Facebook’s Community Standards, you should use their reporting link located in the upper right hand corner of all posts, photos, and comments, allowing for a quick and easy way to notify Facebook’s security team.
For a comprehensive guide on how to report messages, posts, and other site content features, check out Facebook’s step-by-step instructions here. Should you exhaust all options for reporting users and content online, Facebook encourages users to contact local law enforcement if they have been directly threatened and feel their life is in immediate danger.
Also, keep in mind that minimizing your digital footprint is an effective way to reduce personal attacks and malicious posts by others. Deleting Facebook is your best option for protecting your privacy and keeping your name out of the online world. If you are considering deleting your Facebook, you can find out the appropriate steps to take here. Take note that deleting it is permanent, while deactivating your Facebook merely hides your information.
4. Work With a Defamation Removal Attorney to Remove False and Libelous Attacks on Facebook
If your reputation has been attacked or defamed on Facebook, and you are looking to minimize the damage caused, and potentially caused, by it, Aaron Minc and his legal team at Minc Law may be able to work with you.
To schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation call (216) 373-7706 , or schedule a meeting online today.
Depending on the exact nature of the information and how they have posted it (Have they sent the information to someone else? Have they posted it via their own account? Who has access to the information?), an offence may have been committed.
For harassment to be committed, there must be a ‘course of conduct’ (i.e. two or more related occurrences). The information does not necessarily have to be violent in nature, but must be oppressive and need to have caused some alarm or distress. See Q497 for further information regarding this offence.
If the information is indecent, grossly offensive, obscene or threatening/menacing, then an offence relating to ‘malicious communications’ may have been committed. This offence does not require more than one incident. You can report any of these offences to your local policing team and they will then investigate and take appropriate action.
If the information posted does not fall under either of the above offences, then you may wish to consider whether the person has committed ‘libel’ (defamation of character – publishing a false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation). If this is the case, you would need to take action through the civil courts as this would be a civil matter and the police do not have any jurisdiction to assist with this. You should seek legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau and/or a solicitor before taking any action regarding this. Please see related information to find your local bureau.
In the first instance, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the information, you may wish to initially make a report to Facebook/Twitter (before contacting the police/Citizens Advice/a solicitor), as these sites have processes in place for such situations, and may be able to simply remove the content and/or close down the person’s account.
With the ease of sharing and commenting on social media, it’s not hard to mindlessly make a statement without thinking. Let this woman’s story be warning that there can be some serious repercussions.
After posting just one sentence about a former co-worker on Facebook — a post that didn’t even mention the woman by name — a North Carolina woman has to pay $500,000 to settle a defamation lawsuit.
A few years back, Jacqueline Hammond posted “I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid,” in reference to her former colleague, Davyne Dial. According to the complaint, this comment was in reference to Dial’s son who had died in a gun accident involving another child in 1976. Because Dial was not drunk when the accident occurred nor was she responsible for her son’s death, she could sue Hammond for libel — a written statement that is slanderous — for her post online. “You can get in trouble anytime you make a false statement about someone else that damages their character or reputation,” Charlotte attorney Missy Owen told WCNC.
After a two-years, the lawsuit was settle and Hammond owes Dial a whopping $250,000 for actual damages — a.k.a. the emotional distress and defamation — and another $250,000 for punitive damages.
Hammond’s misfortune is a lesson to all to take a step back and think before you post. What you say could come back to haunt you.
Lindsey Murray Trends & Reviews Editor Lindsey works with the Good Housekeeping Institute to test and review products like appliances, bedding, baby items, and more
We have long-standing working relationships with the best media law QCs and junior barristers, whom we can draft into the team to represent you in court if the need arises.
As well as being listed in the prestigious Legal 500 directory as a leading firm in the field of defamation law and privacy law, every solicitor in the media law department is recommended by the directory. Equally, the firm is ranked as a leading firm by Chambers & Partners for defamation and reputation management work, with Iain Wilson, Max Campbell and Tom Double individually recognised. Most importantly, we receive excellent feedback from our clients and contemporaries.
Litigation can be stressful, time consuming and costly. Therefore at the outset of your case we will conduct a cost benefit analysis with you. We will talk you through this process. We offer honest and pragmatic advice to our clients. We will always consider alternative options, including asserting other causes of action (such as harassment and the misuse of private information), approaching intermediaries or PR work.
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Social networking has been a boon for most Web users, allowing even the most non-tech savvy people a chance to connect with friends, publish photos and generally have a presence online. With some 500 million active users on Facebook, it is by far the largest social network and it has given a voice to millions who never would have even considered publishing online otherwise.
But while this has been a boon in many ways, most people are not familiar with mass media law and those who are often don’t see social networking as “publishing” worthy of such contemplation. However, Facebook is very much a public place and getting more so every day.
What you post on a Facebook, as well as other social networks, can easily come back to haunt you if you aren’t careful and it isn’t just jobs and relationships being destroyed, it’s also a matter of lawsuits being filed.
So what are some of the legal dangers that come with posting on Facebook. There are many but here are five of the more common ones.
If you post things on Facebook that are materially untrue about others and unfairly tarnishes their reputation, you can be sued for libel and it has happened before.
Though it might be tempting to think of Facebook as a private communication, a plaintiff only has to show that a third party saw the communication and it hurt their reputation. You can commit libel with something distributed to a small list of your friends the same as if you had posted it on the broader Web.
2. Copyright Infringement
If you post content that is copyrighted by others without their permission, they can, at least in theory, sue you for it. Once again, it is an infringement even if it was only distributed to a few of your friends, though that makes it much less likely that a copyright holder will sue.
I wasn’t able to find an example of a copyright holder suing for copyright infringement over a Facebook posting but it could easily happen. The suits and threats are rare now as much of the infringement likely is private but as Facebook opens up, so will the searches for copyrighted material and, along with it, the takedown filings and lawsuits.
This may be an impending wave more than a current one, but the risk is very real.
Facebook itself has a very poor privacy reputation (and has been sued over it) but users can also contribute the problem by posting private information of others, including photos that were taken at a moment where the subject had a reasonable expectation of privacy or posting private information publicly.
With Facebook enabling tagging of posts and photos, it is easy to see how a user could upload something private about another person and let them know about it, only to discover that person is not too happy about the public exposure and decides to sue.
In short, be careful what you reveal and post about others without their permission.
Harassment is defined as when someone “repeatedly behaved in a manner that was perceived as intrusive or threatening.” On that front, there is hardly a better place to harass someone than on Facebook (or any other social network).
At least some cases of Facebook harassment have reached the courts, including one case where a son sued his own mother for harassment after she broke into his account and posted as him.
The big problem with harassment is that what one person defines has harassment another might not. As such, if someone asks you to leave them alone, it is probably wise to do so.
5. Breach of Contract
Finally, this is a very broad area to consider but most people who use Facebook have other jobs and many of those jobs have rules and regulations about what one can and can not discuss in public. These are often enforced in non-disclosure agreements that are buried within the documents a new employee or contractor signs when joining up.
If you talk too intimately about your work, or anything else you’ve agreed not to talk about, you could find yourself facing a lawsuit for breach of contract. However, that can be said on pretty much anything you signed a contract to do and didn’t do, including wearing the wrong hair extensions.
In the end, Facebook is not much different legally than blogging and that’s because, in many ways, the two acts are very similar. The only difference being that Facebook favors shorter posts to a (theoretically) smaller audience. However, both still involve publishing content to a broader audience across the Web and, as such, both come with very similar potential legal pitfalls.
So it is important to treat your Facebook posting the same as you would your blogging or anything you posted to a public forum. The law isn’t going to draw much of a distinction between the two in most areas and, as such, there isn’t much reason you should either.