Defamation - Online posts

In the world of social media, could you be sued for defamatory online posts? The short answer is "yes." Writing/posting a false statement of fact could be considered libel.

Potential locations on the Internet that could lead to a defamation lawsuit for those who post a false statement of fact (that harms the subject) are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, comment sections, websites, and even chat rooms among others.

There are legal distinctions between defamatory statements and opinions (LINK). Understanding these differences could prevent your post from crossing the line between the two!

The crucial element is that defamation is a (negligent or intentional) false statement of fact. Even if the post contains phrases such as "I think" or "I heard," the post could still be libelous. For example, a blog comment that reads "I think that Joe Smith is a crook because he was fired after the cash drawer was missing money" could possibly cross the line into defamation. It would be viewed by the readers as factual, even if the person posting did not have all the facts about Joe's situation.

The fictional Joe Smith, in this situation, should contact our office with all the details of this situation including how he was harmed by the comment. We can review the specifics and determine if a libel suit is the appropriate legal remedy in this case.

The best prevention for avoiding a defamation lawsuit for online posts is to use caution. Do not post statements of fact that are possibly false - research the issue and think carefully before clicking the "post" button! Once online, always online.

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