Defamation on the Internet: Accommodating the Growth of Social Media
A person may be a victim of defamation when another person has said something false about her. Defamation is a generic term for libel (a defamatory statement that is written) and slander (a defamatory statement which is spoken). The statement cannot be a joke or an expression of opinion; it must be something that is capable of being proven true or false, and which is actually false. Further, the statement must actually be harmful to the victim’s reputation or have caused monetary losses. In most cases, the victim must be able to identify and quantify her actual damages, hurt feelings are often insufficient.
In order to be considered defamation, one person or entity must make false factual statements about another and communicate (or “publish”) those statements to a third party. The statement cannot be a joke or an expression of opinion; it must be something that is capable of being proven true or false, and it must actually be false. When the statement involves public figures or issues of public concern – such as with political candidates – in order to protect the open debate and discussion regarding these public figures, there must also be some malicious intent and affirmative knowledge that the statement is false.