Suing for Online Defamation
With the advent of the internet came the era of public forums and social media platforms. Although most online content is monitored, libelous statements can still make their way online. Online defamation may come in many forms. It can be as simple as someone posting a comment about someone on Facebook or a co-worker impersonating another to destroy his/her reputation. In this article, we will identify what constitutes online defamation and how you can pursue an online defamation claim.
What Is Online Defamation?
A defamation lawsuit involves the publication of written or oral false statements about a person or business. For the act to become legally considered defamation, the lawsuit needs to prove that there are financial losses or damages as a result. The publication can happen through traditional means such as in newspapers or articles, broadcasted over radio, or just overheard from a third party. A more common platform for the publication of potentially libelous materials is posting them online. There are two types of defamation as follows:
- Slander – a defamatory statement that is published verbally
- Libel – a defamatory statement conveyed to a third party through written publications that include pictures, videos, and other forms of media
What Constitutes Online Defamation?
When individuals or businesses feel that their reputation or business is harmed because of a reckless comment made on social media, they may consider filing a defamation lawsuit against the party who posted the comment. By filing a defamation lawsuit, the plaintiff may be able to recover financial compensation for the damages. However, proving online defamation may be challenging as there are some elements that the lawsuit needs to fulfill:
|False statement||The burden of proof usually lies with the plaintiff, where he/she must be able to prove that the online statement is false.|
|Fact||A reasonable person must view the alleged defamatory statement as a fact and not as an opinion.|
|Published||Proving that the slander was published is not difficult when it comes to online defamation because simply printing out the social media post or blog article can already serve as proof.|
|Damages||For a defamation lawsuit to hold its weight in court, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defamatory statement is the direct cause of financial losses or injury to reputation.|
Potential Defenses in an Online Defamation Action
For the defamation lawsuit to be successful, you need to file the lawsuit against the correct defendants and anticipate their defenses. Unfortunately due to the federal law called the Communications Decency Act of 1996, internet service providers (ISP) or website hosts are protected from defamation lawsuits. This means that, instead of ISPs or social media platforms, you should file a lawsuit against the individual or entity that posted or commented on the defamatory statement. Some of the most common defamation defenses are as follows
- The statement was true – In a defamation lawsuit, the ultimate defense is truth.
- The statement was an opinion – Articles that have a context of being an opinion piece do not constitute a defamation lawsuit.
- The statement did not cause any harm – If nobody believed the social media post or blog article, then no harm was done.
- The plaintiff agreed with the statement – If the plaintiff agreed to the statement via an interview or written in an article.
Should You Write an Online Defamation Cease and Desist Letter?
In some situations, a cease and desist letter is the appropriate action to take to resolve a situation. Although the nature of the lawsuit may differ, the most common elements of a cease and desist letter include the plaintiff’s and defendant’s names and contact information, the behavior that you wish to resolve, the legal action that may ensue, and the deadline. However, if drafting a cease and desist letter, there are a few points you need to take into consideration as follows:
- Use direct and clear language. Your letter should be written in a way that warns the recipient but in a way that sparks fear of legal consequences.
- Mind the tone of your cease and desist letter. Make sure the letter is not too aggressive or offensive.
- The cease and desist letter should not be a threat. In short, it should be firm enough to get the recipient’s attention.
Before sending a strongly worded cease and desist letter, you may consider sending a friendlier letter. One valid reason is that, by sending a cease and desist letter, you may end up activating a retaliatory course of action from the defendant. This is why you always need to make sure of the tone and wording of your cease and desist letter.
DoNotPay Can Write a Defamation Cease and Desist Letter for You in Minutes!
Although there are several cease and desist templates that you can download and print online, they may lack the legal perspective of a lawyer. However, hiring a lawyer to draft the cease and desist letter can be prohibitively expensive. That is where DoNotPay can help. Our AI lawyer can help you write a defamation cease and desist letter without the high costs. All you have to do is:
1. Look for the Defamation Demand Letters service 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! DoNotPay provides you with a hassle-free drawing up of cease and desist letters.
DoNotPay Can Do More
- Fax any document
- Schedule appointments with the DMV
- Connect with an inmate
- Create passport photos
- Fight workplace discrimination