How to Differentiate Libel and Slander?

Defamation Demand Letters How to Differentiate Libel and Slander?

Key Differences Between Libel vs Slander

The First Amendment protects free speech, not libel and slander. With the advent of the internet, saying or writing defamatory statements have become even more prevalent. So what can be considered libel and how is it different from slander? In this article, we will delineate the two forms of defamation and show you some examples that could potentially become grounds for a lawsuit.

Defining Defamation of Character

Defamation of character is a catch-all phrase for acts where a false statement is published as truthful which then causes injury or harm to one’s reputation. In most states, defamation lawsuits are considered a civil tort, although some states may consider it as a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment. In a defamation lawsuit, the burden of proof lies in the plaintiff. This means that for your case to be successful, your claim needs to fulfill the following five elements:

  1. Someone made a statement that can be spoken, written, pictured, or gestured.
  2. The statement was published in a television or radio show, loud conversation, magazines, newspapers, or online in social media posts or review websites.
  3. The statement was false; this means statements of opinions cannot be constituted as defamation as they cannot be objectively ruled out as false.
  4. The statement was harmful to one’s reputation i.e. a business loses opportunities, an employee loses his/her job, etc.
  5. The statement was without privilege, which means witnesses testifying in court or lawmakers in the legislative chamber cannot be sued for defamation.

Key Differences Between Libel and Slander

Defamation comes in two forms: libel and slander. The basic elements still apply but they differ in some aspects. Libel is a written false statement, while slander is spoken defamation. When it comes to digital statements (i.e. online defamation), they count as written form and thus are considered libelous acts. Since written statements have more longevity than the spoken word, most courts consider libel more injurious than slander — plaintiffs can also sue for more damages in a libel lawsuit. To put it simply, the key differences between the two are:


Libel Slander
Form Tangible Intangible
Delivery Written Spoken
Examples Magazine articles, social media posts, blog articles, company emails, newspapers Television or radio broadcast, speeches, overheard in a conversation

Another key aspect to consider is seditious libel. Due to the Sedition Act of 1798, the government, the president, or the US congress are protected from false written statements made out of negligence.

Examples of Libel and Slander

Libel and slander are both forms of defamation. Their legalities go well beyond simply saying or writing false information about another person or business. The plaintiff needs to prove that the false statements directly caused harm to a person’s reputation or resulted in a business suffering financial loss. Here below are some general examples of situations that could constitute a defamation lawsuit:

  • Falsely accusing someone’s spouse of cheating on Facebook and causing damage to his/her reputation
  • Falsely alleging that a medical practitioner has fake diplomas and certifications resulting in the clinic losing its patients
  • A co-worker sending emails falsely alleging another employee of stealing equipment, resulting in him/her losing his/her job
  • Spreading false rumors that a restaurant is using cat meat in its menu resulting in patrons and potential customers avoiding eating at the said restaurant
  • Falsely accusing an accounting firm of being incompetent causing harm to the reputation of the firm, its accountants, and its staff

Should You Write a Defamation Cease and Desist Letter?

A defamation cease and desist letter can be an effective first step to a legal procedure. If after reviewing other options and you believe that a cease and desist letter is the next best step, then you may proceed to draw one up. If this seems challenging, there are online templates that you can download and fill up easily. However, when writing your defamation cease and desist letter, you need to consider a few points as follows:

  • Be mindful of the tone of the letter. Make sure that it is not too quarrelsome but not too soft either.
  • Make use of legal grounds and references that you can use to support your case.
  • Avoid making empty threats as this reduces the letter’s seriousness and could potentially backfire.
  • Be thorough in your approach and anticipate the recipient’s reaction when they receive the letter.

DoNotPay Can Draw Up A Defamation Cease and Desist Letter for You in Minutes!

Sending a cease and desist letter (or its more legally binding cousin — the cease and desist order) is no light manner. The best way to ensure the effectiveness of your cease and desist letter is to let a legal expert draft or review the letter. However, this also means exorbitantly high fees. That is where DoNotPay can help. Our AI lawyer can help you draw up a cease and desist letter without having to worry about technicalities or costs. All you need to do is:

1. Search Defamation on DoNotPay.

 

2. Tell us about your situation, including whether the statements were libel or slander, listing the statements that were made, explaining why they are false or misleading, and what consequences you have suffered as a result.

 

3. Based on your location, DoNotPay will generate a formal demand letter on your behalf with the most relevant state legislation regarding defamation.

That’s it! Hitting the “Done” button lets you take the first step to stop slanderous or libelous acts against you.

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