An introduction to internet defamation
Internet defamation is the publication of a false, underprivileged statement which is intending to damage the reputation of an individual or organisation. In written form, this is classed as libel, and as a spoken defamation it is slander.
Elements needed to support a claim of internet defamation
To establish a claim of internet defamation you must be able to prove that a third party has witnessed the publication, that the statement is untrue, it has been written about the claimant specifically, and it has been published with the intention of damage to reputation or business.
Proving that statements of internet defamation are untrue
Your opinion is not sufficient to prove that a statement is defamatory. However, courts will assess how those reading or listening to the content would understand it and determine the context in which the statement was used, even if the statement is not capable of being verified as factually true or false. For example, statements given in the context of chat rooms are likely to be personal opinions, rather than factual statements.
Verifiable facts as a case for internet defamation claims
Statements are considered verifiable if they convey factual assertion which is provably false. For example, hurtful comments which are not factual but simply imply offence cannot support libel claims. Incidences such as name-calling are not considered as verifiable facts for internet defamation claims unless they are making a direct assertion of which the opposite can be proven true.
Internet defamation when reporting on public and private figures
When making a claim for internet defamation against a private figure, someone you know directly, you only need to prove that they have acted with negligence and unreasonably. For public figures, you are also required to prove that the act of internet defamation was deliberate and given with knowledge of the truth. Public figures are those who have access to public media to express opinions, as well as the more obvious examples such as government employees. Corporations are judged as if they were individuals, not necessarily as public figures.
Rules on republishing internet defamation
By republishing and distributing someone else’s defamatory comments, you are taking responsibility for them. It is possible to purchase media liability insurance policies to over online libel claims, however insurers are likely to enforce standards such as removal of content after a complaint.
Defining what counts as internet defamation
Statements are generally considered as genuine defamation when they are not in the context of hyperbole or opinion. The court will analyse the context within which the defamatory comment has been given. Some cases of internet defamation are considered to be libellous per se, such as false accusations of having committed a crime, saying someone has an infectious disease or directly disqualifying someone from their business or profession which consequently leads to a drop in profits.
Call Pinder Reaux’s expert internet defamation lawyers today on 020 8252 7373 for help with suing on the grounds of internet defamation