Slander, libel, and other forms of defamation have always had the potential to cause significant damage to one’s reputation, social relationships, and business dealings. In decades gone-by it used to be that while a defamatory remark or publication could cause damage, that damage was often limited to a community or a small geographic area. However with the advent and growing popularity of the internet and as far back as the late 1980s or early 1990s, it has been clear that the consequences of defamation are no longer limited to a single town or area. False or untrue information can now be spread rapidly and globally.
This trend started by the access to the Internet and World Wide Web through a personal computer has only accelerated in recent years. Whereas one used to have to deliberately sit down at the computer to compose an e-mail or internet posting, in today’s world any cooling-off period provided by this window is long gone. Today most people carry smartphones and connected electronic devices everywhere. A moment of anger can instantly be posted to the internet for all to see on Facebook or another social network- often before all of the facts are in. Additionally, the proliferation of review sites can provide incentive for people to post untrue and defamatory reviews to obtain free or discounted products and services in compensation for their alleged experience. Finally, the pervasiveness of shaming sites has also contributed to an increase in false and defamatory reports on the internet.
What is Slander?
Slander is a type of defamation. In order for a statement to be considered defamatory in nature it must meet certain criteria. A defamatory statement is factual in nature. A factual statement is something that can be proven or disproven. Opinions are not facts and are typically not actionable. However, one may not simply restate a fact in the form of an opinion to avoid liability. The factual assertion must be untrue. The false factual statement must also cause harm to the targeted individual’s standing or reputation leading to damages or other harm. Finally the false statement must have been made without the speaker or writer performing adequate factual research or due diligence to learn of its inaccuracy or the party made the statement knowing that it was untrue. If the targeted individual is a public official, the additional element of malice must be shown.
Defamation includes both slander and libel. Defamation is considered slander when the qualifying statement is spoken. When the qualifying statement is written, it is considered libel. Thus, many potentially defamatory statements on the internet are technically libel because they have been written in e-mails, forum postings, web pages, blog posts, or in other textual forms. However, video and audio recordings are more common than ever on the internet and are likely to continue increasing in prevalence. Defamatory remarks made in a podcast, YouTube or other video, or in an audio recording would all be considered slander. Thus, it is the form of the false statement that determines whether it is libel or slander and not the mere fact that it appears on the Internet.
Who Might be Affected by Slander on the Internet?
Many people believe that they could not possibly be effected or impacted by defamation on the Internet because they have not done anything wrong. While this is a reasonable assumption to make, it is important to remember that the nature of a defamatory statement is that it is untrue. Thus even if you are a model citizen, people can still post false and untrue things about you on the internet. The reasons for these postings are numerous but can include:
- A heated argument or exchange online or in your daily life
- A recent break-up with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse
- A customer who feels that he or she did not get a fair shake
- A business competitor
- A jealous social competitor
- Mistakes on a website that displays mugshots
- Mistakes on a website naming sexual predators
Unfortunately the above covers only a few of the more common scenarios for internet defamation. The sad fact in today’s world is inaccurate and damaging posts can appear without warning from even a minor disagreement or awkward interaction.
How Can I Stop the Internet Defamation and Get my Life Back on Track?
If you have been targeted by an individual who is seeking to harm you reputation and standing through online defamation, you have options to make the abuse stop and to repair your reputation. Attorney Aaron Minc can fight on your behalf to have online slander and libel removed and to hold the offending financially liable for the damage he or she has caused. To schedule a free and private online defamation consultation call us at (216) 831-0042 or contact us online.