As and the internet become larger parts of our lives, issues of internet defamation, revenge pornography, and will inevitably become more common. If you or your child has been the victim of disparaging online content—lies told to harm reputation, nude photos posted to embarrass, or threats of violence through social media—you may have a civil case, in addition to any criminal charges. This article discusses the parameters of internet defamation and the civil actions available to victims.
Defining defamation, slander, and libel
Online defamation can include two different, but similar concepts called: slander and libel.
Defamation is an intentional false statement, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person. It might help to understand that the word defamation comes from the idea of defaming someone.
Libel is anything defaming that appears in writing, such as a Facebook post or public comment on Instagram.
Slander is anything defaming that is spoken. On the internet, this would mostly come in the form of something like a YouTube video or a podcast.
Legal defamation may bring on a criminal charge or result in a civil case. For our purposes, we will be talking mostly about the civil repercussions (). Likewise, because we are dealing with the internet in this topic, we will mostly be talking about libel, since most things appearing on a social media post would be considered written. However, videos and audio recordings could be posted on the internet, in which case, we would be talking about slander.
What is, and isn’t, considered defamatory?
What is and isn’t considered to be true or false, or defaming or not is not always clear. What might appear to be an opinion, may actually be fact.
Defamation must be a statement of fact, which means that it could be proven or refuted. This means that opinions, name-calling, and exaggerations are not defaming because they aren’t facts.
Let’s look at some example scenarios:
What about posting photos online? Can that be defamation?
If you post a photo of someone online, without their permission, that is not considered defamation. This assumes that the photo was taken in a public place, where people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This also assumes that you are not trying to sell something or using it for some other commercial purpose.
If the photo is taken somewhere in public, but in a place where you do have a reasonable expectation of privacy, like a bathroom or dressing room, then it would be considered defamation.
This may beg the question, “What if someone posts nude photos of someone else online?”
Nude photos fall into their own category called . You may not post nude photos, in which the person is identifiable—either from their face or through some other means, like a tattoo—without their permission. In Florida, someone who posts revenge porn online is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor and also susceptible to a civil lawsuit.
What if my child is the victim of internet defamation?
If your child comes to you about something someone posted online that is upsetting them, you have a few options. Everyone wants to protect their child, and it can be tempting to fight back, but instead, follow the proper channels so that you do not find yourself committing an illegal act in response.
How can a lawyer help?
We all know how fast information spreads on the internet. Once something is posted, especially if it’s scandalous and in the hands of malicious teens, it could be in thousands of places within hours. As the saying goes, “The internet is forever.” Even if the person takes down the content, it could be screenshotted, shared, reposted, archived, and saved countless times by that point.
For these reasons, internet defamation can be seriously harmful to your or your child’s reputation.
A personal injury attorney with experience handling defamation can help you decide whether or not the content rises to the level of defamation. If the content does meet the criteria of defamation, they can then help you begin legal action to recover for your and to punish those involved.
Contacting an attorney right away is often your best course of action since as mentioned, information can spread quickly online. For this reason, you will want the information to come down as soon as possible to control is dispersion.
Unfortunately, internet defamation is becoming more and more common, and will most likely gain more popularity as technology helps us to spread information rapidly. Let the experienced team at Dolman Law Group find a solution within the legal system.
We fight for the victims of these cases and obtain the compensation they deserve for the embarrassment, mental and emotional anguish, and damage to their reputation. If you or a loved one has suffered from losses, be it emotionally, physically, or monetarily; experienced a loss of enjoyment of life; or of someone’s negligent and bullying defamation, you may be eligible to be compensated for your injuries. Please contact the attorneys of the Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900.
We look forward to standing up for you.