Home > Blog > Growing Issue & Legal Ramifications Of Defamation On Social Media

Growing Issue & Legal Ramifications Of Defamation On Social Media

Posted by:

Everyone has heard the old adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all".  In the age of social media, such advice takes on a whole new meaning. Just because something is 140 characters long, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the power to land you in the courtroom. Defamation on Facebook and Twitter is becoming more common, because it’s so easy to post a comment or an item onto your Facebook wall or Twitter account.

The term "defamation" is an all-encompassing term that covers any statement that hurts someones reputation. If the statement is made in writing and published, the defamation is called "libel." If the hurtful statement is spoken, the statement is "slander." However, libel is what concerns us when discussing social media as it involves defamation that can be seen in either writing and medias such as video, film, print and online.

A spontaneous compulsion to say something defaming about someone else can result in big legal problems.  Defaming posts or tweets can spread quickly and have devastating effects on reputations, careers, business plans and personal lives. Even things that seem funny in the moment may not be so humorous to the recipient and when seen through a judge’s more serious lens, months or even years later.

When it comes to a defamation court case, damages can mount up quickly as a plaintiff can easily count the number of people that read the defamatory tweet. With retweets and reposts, damages can multiply quickly and the message author may find themselves on the hook for much more money in damages than they can possibly afford.

In the US, there have been several Twitter defamation lawsuits filed, including a notorious suit against Courtney Love, who accused a fashion designer of stealing from her and continued to taunt the designer on social media.  Prior to the impending court date, Love chose to settle the suite out of court, paying the designer $430,000.  

Just like Twitter, there are a growing number of lawsuits stemming from Facebook posts as well.   In Georgia, a student is suing two classmates for creating a phony Facebook page with her information.   Using the phony Facebook page, the two students posted a racist video, made it seem that the victim used drugs and went on to post obscene comments on other individual's Facebook accounts while posing as the victim.   

In extreme cases, defaming statements and taunting on Facebook (referred to as "Cyber bullying") have even led to suicide.   That being the case, malicious and defaming actions on Facebook can lead to both financial damages and incarceration. 

To recover in a libel or slander suit, the plaintiff must usually show evidence of five elements:

  1. The defendant conveyed a defamatory message that was incorrect/untrue
  2. The material was published, meaning that it was conveyed to someone other than the plaintiff
  3. The plaintiff could be identified as the person referred to in the defamatory material
  4. The plaintiff suffered some injury to his or her reputation as a result of the communication.

If you are a victim of defamation through the internet or social media, call us to discuss the matter. At Lebell, Dobroski, Morgan & Meylink, we are experienced in handling online based defamation cases and helping our clients reclaim their reputations as well as financial compensation.  For a free consultation in home or in our offices, please call us at 414 276 1233