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Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide platforms for users to engage in public, interactive conversations. But if an online comment is hurtful and false, it could set the stage for a defamation lawsuit.
There are two types of defamation: Libelous comments are in writing, while slanderous statements are spoken. In the age of status updates, podcasts, and YouTube, both types can potentially apply in social-media defamation cases.
Defamation suits generally require the victim to prove certain elements. Here are three tips if you're considering an online defamation lawsuit:
Defamation requires that a hurtful statement be made and "published" to at least one other person. Online comments can suffice -- but because such comments can be easily deleted, a victim may want to act quickly to preserve the comment as proof.
There are different ways to do this, and an experienced attorney can suggest the best course of action for your particular case. Suggestions may include:
Whatever the defamatory comment says, it must be false for it to be considered defamation. For example, if someone defames you by calling you a tax cheat, you can prove the comment is false by digging up your tax records.
If you're a public figure, you'll also have to prove actual malice -- that the statement was made with an intentional disregard for the truth. Again, an experienced lawyer will be able to help figure out the best way to prove this.
The old adage that "revenge is a dish best served cold" applies to online defamation as well. Though a defamatory comment may be fully deserving of an immediate, scathing reply, it may be best to leave it alone. Posting an angry response could make matters worse -- and could set you up for a potential defamation lawsuit as well.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.