My name is Enrico Schaefer, welcome to Defamation Law Radio. We get this question a lot “What can I do about defamation of character on the internet?” When you believe you’ve been defamed online, there are a number of different strategies that you can put in place in order to try and either minimize the problem or resolve the problem, but the variables are extensive.
Internet defamation comes in so many different forms and in so many varieties. It is propagated across so many types of websites. So, if you have been the victim, or you believe you’ve been the victim of internet-based defamation of character, the first thing you need to do is do a proper assessment of your situation.
If the defamation is in the written form on a web page, then that is written defamation, which is known as libel. Libel on the internet is by far the most common way that people’s reputations are ruined, but defamation can also occur as a result of an audio recording or even more likely a video through YouTube, Vimeo or some of these others. So, if it’s posted in a video or audio format, then it is going to be defamation slander, and there are some nuances to whether or not it’s libel or slander and how you might attack that problem. So, what do we do for clients who contact us complaining about defamation of character on the internet?
We do an initial assessment where we get all the background information. That’s documents, any email communications, what websites, we do our own research in order to gain further background information. The next thing that we’ll do is we do an extensive interview of the client concerning the defamation issue. We go through the background documents that have been provided, our own research, and we try and make sure we understand the background information which is going to be most relevant to helping analyze the defamation issue, on the one hand. And on the internet side, on the technology side, we have to understand where this is being posted, whether or not it’s been duplicated, where it originated, who the parties are, who the stakeholders are on the websites or the forums or the platforms or the media in which the defamation exists.
The next thing we’re going to do is take a look at the causes of action that might be in play, and look specifically at the statute of limitations which might apply. A victim of defamation on the internet doesn’t need to spend a lot of money if it turns out that the statute of limitations is going to preclude the claim for defamation if you should ever go to court, or if you should send a threat letter alleging defamation of character. Then, you’re going to need to know what your statute is so that if the push back comes from the other attorney, hey, look at, statute of limitations has run; you need to know what you’re going to be able to do with that. Then what we need to do is identify what are the client’s goals? What are the client’s budgets in order to handle the defamation issues?
So, one of the goals could be to have the defamatory content removed from the internet, have the defamatory comment delisted from Google, have the internet content buried somehow in terms of an SEO strategy. These types of things are all the things we’re going to take a look at, and then the client needs to understand that in order to deal with this defamation problem, what budgets are going to apply? How much is it going to cost if I go through a threat letter approach against a variety of different people versus what’s it going to cost if I go to court in order to identify a John Doe defendant, or bring a defamation liability claim against known defendants?
The last thing we’re going to do is we’re going to advise you as to what your options are. What are the three things that we think might make the most sense within your budget as the client, and how much are those things going to cost? Every client needs to get educated. Information is power. So, the first thing we need to do in any of these projects is to get the client educated about defamation law. Show them how defamation on the internet typically works and what strategies might be in play depending on who all the players are, from the web host to the author to the publisher of the defamatory content. Once we get all that, we can really start to help the client to make some educated decisions about what comes next. What their options are and what those are going to cost.
That’s all for Defamation Law Radio, for today. I am Defamation Attorney Enrico Schaefer signing off. We will see you next time.