What Can I Do About Online Defamation?

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.

Online Dating Leads to Jailhouse Online Defamation Lawsuit

Believe it or not, your “fame quotient” dictates what you have to prove when perusing a defamation lawsuit. It’s one of the few things in life where celebrities and politicians have it harder than you or me. It’s much easier for a private citizen to win a defamation lawsuit than a famous (or notorious) person. In fact, recognizable people who did not intentionally seek notoriety, but somehow became inserted into common discourse, will often try to argue that they’re not “public figures” when filling libel and/or slander claims.

Recently, this denial of fame tactic was used by jailhouse-lawyer/convicted felon, Edmund D. LaChance, Jr.

The Desire to Date

In 2005, Ed thought it was about time he branched out and nurtured his inner Bridget Jones. So, he dug deep, wrote what he thought was a welcoming personal profile and let it loose on the website, Inmate Connections. For obvious reasons, Mr. LaChance failed to mention in his bio that he was a convicted rapist.

Enter the Boston Herald who decided to do a series of reports on the dangers of interacting with felons online. Edmund LaChance and his grossly misleading profile were highlighted in the Herald’s informative, public service features. LaChance was neither flattered by, nor appreciated, the unwanted attention the article brought and opted to file a defamation lawsuit—LaChance vs. Boston Herald was born.

But, I’m not Famous!

Famous people are required to prove malice when filing defamation lawsuits, so LaChance filed the suit as a private citizen in an attempt to avoid having to meet the condition. The court, however, disagreed with this status and ruled that Mr. LaChance was considered a “limited purpose public figure” who willingly put himself in the public’s eye the second he clicked “submit” and posted his bio online.

Initially, the Boston Herald made some small factual errors about LaChance in their reporting. Ed tried to use this to his advantage, but was once again knocked down by the court. The judge ruled that the mistakes were protected by the “fair report privilege” and deemed the errors inconsequential since they weren’t “actionably false”.

Public Concern Trumps Online Defamation of Public Figures

Speaking to the larger issue, the court also determined that since the Herald’s articles addressed a matter of public concern, Mr. LaChance was also required to prove that the journalists acted with malice or reckless disregard for the truth. In other words, Ed would have to prove that the Boston Herald went out of their way to make him, the convicted rapist, look bad.

As one would imagine, the court threw the case out and the appellate division upheld their decision.

LaChance’s outcome had a lot to do with the fact that he was considered a public figure. The rules change when defamatory statements affect private citizens. If you are currently in the middle of an online defamation battle, we can provide legal guidance. There are quick, inexpensive ways to legally force defamatory statements about small businesses and individuals to be removed from the Net. And we’re the lawyers who can make that happen for you.

Fill out the secure form to your right to begin the conversation. We’ve passed the bar and we’re Internet geeks; in other words, the perfect legal team to handle your online defamation lawsuit needs.