Defamation is illegal; but proving it is hard. Many standards must be met in order to win an online defamation lawsuit. Moreover, the statue allows for a significant amount of interpretation, so each case must be thoroughly examined on its own merits.
Defamation is when a person makes a false statement — which could be interpreted as fact — that points a negative light on another person, business or government. Slander is spoken defamation, while libel is written defamation. In other words, if a person types false comments online, they are not committing slander, but instead, libel. The only time when online defamation is considered to be slander is when the statement in question is part of an online video.
Currently, only two nations — China and South Korea — have language-specific online defamation laws. Many states in the U.S. have taken legislative steps towards online defamation legislation but, there has been little meaningful progress at the federal level.
The suicide of a young Missourian forced the first attempt at federal legislation in the United States. In 2006, 13-year old Megan Meier killed herself after an online male “friend” started sending degrading and insulting messages. After her death, it was discovered that the “boy” was actually a friend of Megan’s and the friend’s mother.
Local prosecutors did file charges against the parent and teen for Megan’s death. Federally, the mother was found guilty of misdemeanour computer abuse violations. The uproar over the trial led many states to update existing laws. In addition, a federal law in Megan’s name was introduced at the legislative level. The law has not yet passed since many feel it impedes free-speech rights outlined in the Constitution.
The line between freedom of speech and online defamation is currently under debate in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill. In Megan’s case, the bullying party made many statements about Megan’s character that were not true. However, due to the nature of freedom of speech — and the power of the Internet — lawmakers seem reluctant to tighten the online defamation reins. And as more and more people plug in and power up their computers, the chances for similar occurrences will continue to multiply.
Have you been affected by online defamation? If so, the Kelly Law Firm can help. Whether you’ve been unfairly maligned on the Internet or you’re being accused of making false statements, our team on online defamation lawyers can help resolve the problem.
Don’t wait for your online defamation problem to get out of hand; an issue left unaddressed could result in lost revenue; contact us today.