Online defamation…what is it? What does the term “online defamation” actually mean and how do you go about proving that you or your business have been defamed online?
We’ve shared a few posts in recent weeks about different types of defamation and how a defamation attorney can help you to fight and win your case. Today, however, we’re getting down to the very basics and we’re talking about the very definition of defamation when it comes to online commenting or posting.
Online Defamation: Understanding What it Means
What is Defamation?
We have already covered this topic in some depth in previous posts here on our blog, but to save you having to flip back to those posts if you are new here, let’s do a quick recap of what defamation actually is.
In the state of Florida, the tort of defamation states that defamation is the “act of making or publishing a false statement to a third party, resulting in harm to another’s reputation.” This can include a written or published statement – libel, or a spoken communication – slander.
Under Florida law you must be able to prove a number of stipulations in order for the statement made against you to be considered defamatory, these include:
- Proof of publication;
- Proof of falsity:
- Proof that the alleged defamer acted with knowledge or reckless disregard as to the falsity on a matter concerning a public official, or at least negligently on a matter concerning a private citizen;
- Proof of actual damages; &
- Proof that the Statement was defamatory (resulted in harm to your reputation.)
What is Online Defamation?
Now that we’ve recapped what defamation means in general, what does defamation mean in the context of online posting? Essentially, we are talking about the same thing.
Defamatory statements made online must still meet the criteria outlined above in order to be considered defamatory.
In most cases, online defamation is considered to be libel – that is, defamation that has been made in some kind of “fixed media”.
Examples of online libel include:
- Blog posts
- Online reviews
- Online ratings
- Posting on a web page
- Leaving a comment
- Posting on a message board
Defamatory statements online may also be considered slander (although this is less frequent) and include statements made via:
- Transcribed video
- Audio files
What Rules, Laws and Regulations Protect Someone Who Posts Defamation Online?
When someone publishes a statement online that may be considered defamatory, they can argue that it is not defamatory if:
- There is truth in the statement that was made
- The individual that the statement was made about was a public official and the statement was not made with actual malice
- The statement cannot be proven to have caused injury to the subject of the statement
- The statement is a statement of opinion
- When information in the statement was privileged
Many times people who make defamatory statements will claim that they are protected by the first amendment, however, the first amendment does NOT protect them in the case of defamatory statements.
What Rules, Laws and Regulations Protect Someone Who is Defamed Online?
The tort of defamation protects you against defamatory statements and gives you the right to sue an individual who makes a defamatory statement against you, in a court of law.
How Do You Prove Online Defamation?
To prove online defamation you not only have to prove that a statement was defamatory, but you also have to be able to prove that the statement was made. This means keeping meticulous records. Take screen captures, print outdated documents, download videos, take note of URLs and keep note of websites where the defamatory statement was made and republished. The more accurate your record keeping is, the easier it will be for you (or your attorney) to present your case in court. Meticulous records will also help you to keep an accurate timeline so that when you look back on the incident during your court case, you won’t have to rely exclusively on memory or unprovable evidence.
How is Online Defamation Prosecuted in Florida?
To bring a case of defamation against someone in the State of Florida, you must be able to prove your case using the bullet points listed above under the definition of defamation. Hiring a defamation attorney is of great benefit to you in this situation because they can help you to build your case as well as help to ensure that you have sufficient evidence enough to prove your case in a court of law.
Once you have hired a defamation attorney to represent you, you also don’t have to worry about filing deadlines and filing the necessary paperwork properly because your attorney will see to all of that for you.
In Florida, defamation can be prosecuted in both civil and criminal court. It’s best to consult with your attorney to determine which is best for your situation and how they can help with your case taking into account your specific circumstances.
Need Representation for an Online Defamation Case?
If you live in or around the St Pete area of Florida and are seeking representation for an online defamation case, Weidner Law can help. Just pick up the phone and give us a call at 727-954-8752 and we’ll set up a consultation post haste to ensure that you don’t waste a minute in building and pursuing your defamation case in court.