Internet Defamation of Character Law Discussion:
Welcome to Defamation Law Radio. Internet defamation of character is as easy to perpetuate as a blog post, Facebook update, rating submission, or a forum comment. Your online reputation is measured by the websites return as Google search results. Do you know what people are saying and writing about you?
This is Brian Hall, an internet lawyer with Traverse Legal, PLC, a law firm representing plaintiffs and defendants in internet defamation matters. Today, I will be answering the question: what defenses are available to a claim of internet defamation?
Before I get into those defenses, let’s remind everyone what internet defamation of character law is. Internet defamation, like regular defamation, occurs on the internet and amounts to a false or defamatory statement about another person that’s published on the internet somewhere and causes damage to that particular person, either damage to character or damage to their business, whatever it might be. So, as long as all those elements that are required for a cause of action for defamation are satisfied, internet defamation does exist. However, oftentimes, I’m asked whether or not something does truly amount to internet defamation. And in those cases, it is critical to review each of the causes of action’s particular elements and see if it can be established. If it can’t, then internet defamation has not occurred. There are also other defenses that are very common in the internet defamation context.
Another defense, similar to truth, is opinion. If someone is merely stating an opinion as opposed to a fact, then that likely does not support a cause of action for internet defamation. While this lying can be very, very blurry, it usually requires an internet defamation attorney to help decipher fact versus opinion.
Another defense pertains to whether or not something is a fair comment made in the matter of public interest. And this really goes to one of the elements of the defamation cause of action. And that has to do with whether or not the person, about whom the statement is made, is a private individual or a public figure. If the person is a private individual, then the statement made only has to be false. However, if the person is a public figure, or in some instances, what’s known as a limited purpose public figure, then the statement needs to be made with recklessness or with actual malice. And those standards are critically important and ones that came into play as a result of the 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times vs. Sullivan.
Once again, an internet defamation attorney will be able to look at those issues and determine whether or not somebody does, indeed, qualify as a private person, such as if a student made a comment about a classmate, or, if the person is more likely to be classified as a public figure. So, if somebody made a statement about a well-known CEO of a company, regardless of what defenses are available, it’s critically important, again, as I’ve said at the outset, to have an internet defamation attorney help you identify what the actual elements of an internet defamation cause of action are to make sure that a proper cause of action has been stated. And if it has, identify what defenses could apply.
This has been Brian Hall answering your question: What are the defenses available to an internet defamation cause of action?
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