Internet Defamation affects more people than just about any other on-line issue, beyond privacy concerns. As an internet defamation attorney, I get calls and emails every day from people who have been defamed on-line, either on a bulletin board post, blog post, user generated blog comment, FaceBook post, Twitter post or other review web site comment. Their reputation has been attacked and the web page with the defamatory content is being returned as a high search engine result. Their business associates, competitors, neighbors, church congregation, employees and friends need only Google "their name" or their "company name" to be exposed to hurtful, false and defamatory statements. An online defamation attorney knows all too well how difficult it is for clients when the internet spews libelous content for everyone to see. Here are some things you need to know and understand before you decide to sue for defamation, slander, or libel:
Clients need to understand that defamation on the internet presents a number of unique legal challenges. The first is that you need to prove who is making the false statements. Unless the post author has provided their name, or the information was posted by the web site owner with property "Who Is" information on their domain registration, identifying the author of the post or comment can be a challenge. Since many ISP's and hosting companies only keep IP information for 30 to 60 days, it becomes critical to either preserve the IP information or sue for online defamation and issue a subpoena for that information. In short, time is of the essence.
The second big challenge is that the United States Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of that Act provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an "interactive computer service" who publish information provided by others:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
This means you may not be able to sue the web host, web site owner or publisher of third party content, that is, the person on whose Internet web page the defamation of character is found.