How to Handle Slander on Instagram
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Social media has become a breeding ground for outrage, bullying, and defamation—and unfortunately, the nature of social media makes such things extremely public. Slander on Instagram can have devastating consequences for your personal and professional reputation.
If you want to know how to report slander on Instagram, we recommend the following approach:
- Click the 3 dots in the top right corner of the ‘slanderous’ post;
- Select ‘Report’;
- Select ‘Report Post, Message or Comment’ or ‘Report Account’
- Select the reason that you are reporting the post, message, comment, or account;
- Complete the on-screen instructions relevant to your slander issue.
At Minc Law, we have extensive experience in stopping social media harassment and removing defamatory posts, comments, and profiles from popular social media sites like Instagram. We pride ourselves in working quickly and efficiently without drawing more unwanted attention than absolutely necessary so that our clients can put this delicate situation behind them as soon as possible.
In this article, we discuss the definition of slander and walk readers through the process of reporting harassment and bullying on Instagram. Then, we explain how to handle slander on Instagram and how to take legal action to stop and remove defamatory Instagram content.
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What is Considered Slander on Instagram?
Defamation is the act of publishing a false statement of fact to a third party that ultimately causes damage to another’s reputation. Defamation is an overall term for two different types of defamation: slander and libel. Slander is defamation that is spoken, while libel is defamation that is written.
An effective way to remember the difference between libel and slander is that “slander” and “spoken” both begin with an S.
Slander on social media is often a misnomer, as it is commonly used to describe false statements that are written – this is in fact libel.
Social media defamation is content published to a social media platform that defames a person or business. Other common terms for this type of defamation include slander, libel, cyber defamation, disparagement, character assassination, cyberbullying, and cyber harassment.
Common Examples of Defamation on Instagram
Reputation-damaging lies that are spoken aloud or communicated orally on Instagram may be considered slander. Livestreams and videos, for instance, can be slanderous if they include defamatory statements, while libel commonly occurs in posts, comments, captions, memes, messages, or photoshopped pictures.
Opinion, however, does not constitute slander on Instagram. For example, if a user comments on a photo you posted and says it is ugly, this comment would not fall under defamation. Saying an image is ugly is an opinion and therefore not an actionable claim.
Minc Law Tip: For more information about the different types of defamation, check out our article: How Many Types of Defamation Are There?
What is Instagram Doing to Combat Slander?
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms all have anti-bullying and harassment policies within their rules. For example, Instagram provides a reporting tool to report a post, comment, or profile for violating its Community Guidelines.
Video: What to Do If You Are Being Slandered or Libeled on Facebook
However, if you are located in the United States and you are trying to report defamation or slander on Instagram, Instagram provides the following message:
“Instagram is not in a position to adjudicate the truth or falsity of statements made by third parties, and consistent with Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, is not responsible for those statements. As a result, we are not liable to act on the content you want to report. If you believe content on Instagram violates our Community Guidelines (example: bullying, harassment, hate speech), please visit the Help Center to learn more about how to report it to us.”
Many platforms like Instagram take this same stance on content that could be considered defamatory. In recent years, society has called on these social media platforms to take more action when it comes to online harassment and defamation. In March 2021, a non-profit group called PEN America called on social media platforms, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to implement design changes to address online abuse. In this report, PEN America recommended the following changes:
- A dashboard that filters abusive content for users to review separately, similar to a spam folder in email systems.
- An “SOS” button for users experiencing overwhelming harassment that triggers additional protections and access to an emergency hotline for immediate support.
- A documentation feature that allows users to easily record incidents of abuse automatically or with one click.
- Account access for users’ trusted allies who can help manage abuse or harassment.
- Transparent, escalating repercussions for abusive online behavior.
In response, the platforms said they would review the recommendations as they continue to strive to make users feel safe and free of abuse.
Reporting Harassment or Bullying on Instagram
Social media can be a great place to connect and explore the world, but there is also a dark side—which includes defamation, bullying, and harassment.
Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, work to keep their platform safe and accessible for its users. If an account on Instagram is created with the sole intent to bully or harass another person or if a photo or comment was posted with the intent to bully or harass, you can report this on Instagram. Bullying and harassment violate these platforms’ Community Guidelines.
According to Instagram’s help center, users can currently report a post on Instagram for any of the following reasons:
- Nudity or sexual activity,
- Hate speech or symbols,
- Racist language or activity,
- Violence or dangerous organizations,
- Bullying or harassment,
- Selling illegal or regulated goods,
- Intellectual property violations,
- Suicide or self-injury.
How Do You Get a Profile Page Removed from Instagram for Bullying or Harassment?
There are a few methods you can try to have a profile page removed from Instagram for bullying or harassment. We outline these below.
- Report the profile to Instagram for Community Guidelines violations,
- Work with an attorney to send a cease and desist letter to the perpetrator,
- Work with an attorney to file a lawsuit to obtain a court order.
Report the Profile to Instagram
Instagram allows the public to report profiles that violate its Community Guidelines, which include accounts solely created to bully or harass others. Reporting on Instagram is anonymous, and the person you reported will not be notified that you were the one who reported them.
For more information on how to report an account or profile to Instagram, jump to the section below for step-by-step instructions.
Send a Cease & Desist Letter to the Profile Owner
If you know the identity of the profile owner, an attorney may be able to help you send a cease and desist letter. A cease and desist letter is a cautionary correspondence sent to a perpetrator demanding that they stop (“cease”) their unlawful behavior, and refrain from continuing (“desist”) that behavior in the future, otherwise legal action may be pursued.
Cease and desist letters are only appropriate if you know the identity of the person behind the defaming content. And while cease and desist letters can be effective, keep in mind that they are not legally binding (so the recipient of the letter does not have to comply).
The recipient of your cease and desist letter may call your bluff and assume you are not going to take further legal action against them if they do not meet your demands. So while anyone can send a cease and desist letter, they tend to hold more weight when they come from an attorney.
File a Lawsuit to Obtain a Court Order for Removal of the Profile or Content
If your cease and desist letter is not successful, or you do not know who is behind the profile or account on Instagram, then you may need to pursue litigation. By filing a lawsuit, you can achieve the following goals:
- Identify the unknown owner of an Instagram profile by using court subpoenas,
- Sue for damages caused by the defaming Instagram profile and user, and
- Obtain a court order to remove content or the Instagram profile.
Block the Account
If you are unable to have the profile removed, blocking them may be your best option to avoid unnecessary stress. To block a profile on Instagram, simply locate the account you want to block by using the search feature. Press the 3 dots at the top right-hand corner, then click “Block.”
Then, choose whether to block the person and any future profiles they may create, or simply block this profile. Click “Block” again to confirm.
How Can You Tell if a Harassing Post Has Been Removed from Instagram?
Instagram does review reports, but the platform does not provide a specific timeline on how fast reports are reviewed. Receiving a response to a report could take anywhere from ten minutes to ten days.
Instagram may not always follow up on your submitted reports. So even if you do not receive a response, you may notice that the content or account you reported has disappeared without confirmation that Instagram reviewed your report.
If a post or profile has been removed for harassment or bullying, that post or account is no longer accessible. If a profile or post has been completely removed, the URL takes you to a page that says “Sorry, this page isn’t available.”
In our experience, the removal of an entire account by Instagram is rare. Often, Instagram will only suspend an account for a certain period of time instead of completely removing it.
Where Can You Report Bullying & Harassment on Instagram?
Whether you have an Instagram account or not, you can report a profile or content that is considered harassment or bullying. Your report is kept anonymous unless you are reporting an intellectual property infringement (copyright). Otherwise, the account you reported will not see who reported them.
To report an Instagram account, go to the account profile that you want to report and click the 3 dots in the top right corner. Click or tap “Report.”
Click “Report Account.”
Choose the reason you are reporting, and then follow the prompts to complete your report.
To report a single post on Instagram, follow the same process as above, except click “Report Post, Message, or Comment” instead of “Report Account.” Then, follow the prompts to complete your report.
And lastly, to report a comment on Instagram, navigate to the post with the inappropriate comment. Click “View all comments.”
Swipe left on the comment and click on the exclamation point icon.
Click “Report This Comment.”
Then, choose the reason you are reporting the comment. Follow the prompts to finish the report.
How to Handle Slander on Instagram
In recent years, it has become all too common for hateful speech and defamation to appear on social media platforms like Instagram. If you or your business are being defamed on Instagram, there are remedies available.
What Can You Do If Someone Is Slandering You or Your Business on Instagram?
If you or your business is being slandered on Instagram, we recommend taking the following steps:
1. Cease Contact With the Slanderer
First, as obvious as it may seem, it deserves to be stated: cut off all contact with the slanderer. Do not engage in a public argument or even message them privately. Doing so will almost always only make matters worse.
2. Report the Slander to Instagram (For Non-U.S. Residents)
In the United States, Instagram is protected under the landmark piece of internet legislation known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and cannot generally be held responsible for false statements or defamatory content on its platform (barring a rare exception).
So if you are in the U.S. and trying to report defamation via Instagram’s defamation reporting form, you will be told that they do not adjudicate the falsity or truth of a matter due to protections under Section 230.
But if you live outside the United States, your first step in handling defamation on Instagram is to report it to the platform. For matters as serious as slander, you can use Instagram’s ‘Defamation Reporting Form’. This form should only be used if you are the person experiencing defamation or if you are their authorized representative, such as an attorney.
Visit Instagram’s help center to learn how to report slander on Instagram. The help center has instructions for reporting:
- Instagram stories,
- Private messages,
- Posts on the Explore page,
- Inappropriate videos,
- Live broadcasts,
- Sellers and products.
For each type of report, be prepared to describe the defamatory content and include as much information as you can, including a screenshot of the defaming content, if possible.
How to Report Someone’s Instagram Story
To report an Instagram Story, tap the three dots at the top of the story you would like to report.
Choose the reason you are reporting the story, then follow the prompts to finish the report
How to Report an Inappropriate Video on Instagram
To report an inappropriate video, tap the three dots at the top right corner of the video post. Tap “Report.”
Choose the reason you are reporting the video. Then, follow the prompts to complete the report.
How to Report a Live Broadcast on Instagram
Live broadcasts that contain bullying or harassment, self-harm, physical abuse, child abuse, and the threat of real-world violence go against Instagram’s community standards.
To report a live broadcast, follow the same steps as above. Click the three dots at the bottom of the broadcast, tap “Report,” and then follow the prompts to complete the report of inappropriate content.
3. Have an Experienced Attorney Draft & Send a Cease and Desist Letter
When reporting or ignoring the problem is not working, hiring a lawyer to help you remove defamatory posts on Instagram may be your best option.
If you know the identity of the person who is making the defamatory statements on Instagram, your attorney can send a cease and desist letter on your behalf to demand that the defaming behavior stop and be removed from Instagram.
A cease and desist letter (also referred to as a “demand letter” or “retraction demand”) is commonly used to resolve a dispute between parties. It is not filed in court but rather sent to the individual with whom you have the issue. Such a letter is often a quick and effective way to resolve your issue without proceeding to litigation.
4. Sue for Slander on Instagram
If your cease and desist letter does not work or you would like to pursue defamation damages against the individual slandering you on Instagram, you have the option of filing a slander lawsuit.
Filing a defamation lawsuit can help you end the defamation and may result in monetary damages to compensate for your losses. Suing for slander can also lead to identifying the anonymous poster. And initiating the lawsuit can result in the removal of the defamation, whether by a court order or through a settlement agreement.
To sue for slander on Instagram, you must first determine that you have a valid slander claim. Many legal claims may be available to you such as libel, interference with business relationships, and/or intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Once you have determined you have a valid claim, take the following steps:
- Identify the best court in which to file the slander lawsuit;
- Gather and preserve the evidence;
- Comply with all pre-suit filing requirements;
- Consider alternative dispute or pre-suit resolution tactics; and
- Draft, file, and serve the legal complaint on the defaming party.
Filing a lawsuit for slander should not be taken lightly. Consult with an experienced attorney to discuss the options and remedies available to you.
5. Get Law Enforcement Involved
If you are being harassed on Instagram, it may be necessary to contact law enforcement. You should especially contact law enforcement if you fear for your or your family’s safety. If you are receiving threats or you feel that you may be physically harmed, contact law enforcement immediately.
You may also want to contact a local attorney in your area about obtaining a restraining order against this individual making these threats online.
However, you should know that many states have yet to enact laws to adequately address online harassment and slander. Therefore, law enforcement may be ill-equipped to take action.
Hiring a Lawyer to Remove Defamatory Instagram Posts
If you have tried to handle defamatory Instagram posts on your own and were unsuccessful, you may need to consider hiring a lawyer. An experienced defamation attorney can help you remove the defamatory content as well as assist with stopping the behavior that is causing the defamatory posts.
In this section, we discuss the ways a lawyer can help you and why you should consider hiring a defamation attorney. Then, we explain what the legal process looks like when working with a lawyer to remove defamatory posts on Instagram.
How Can a Lawyer Help Your Instagram Defamation and Reputation Management Case?
Hiring a defamation attorney to help remove defamatory Instagram posts can be a confusing process.
But there are many good reasons to retain legal counsel to help remove defamatory posts from Instagram. For instance, an attorney can do the following:
An Attorney Can Protect Your Rights & Evaluate What Legal Claims Are Available to You
Legal terminology can be hard to understand, but a lawyer can assist in interpreting legal terms and court documents. An attorney can also explain how the legal process works and what relevant laws pertain to your case.
An Attorney Can Gather the Evidence You Need to Prove a Claim
An attorney can identify, preserve, obtain and save crucial evidence that may make or break your case.
An Attorney Can Take Legal Action on Your Behalf
An attorney can draft a well-written cease and desist letter to send to the person behind the Instagram defamation. They can also prepare and send a DMCA takedown notice for copyright infringement matters.
Additionally, experienced internet and defamation attorneys may be experienced with the social media platform’s reporting procedures and can help compile and/or preserve evidence and present it to the platform for review.
And of course, an attorney can file a civil action to identify anonymous users online or to sue for defamation.
An Attorney Can Negotiate Effectively
A seasoned defamation attorney knows how to negotiate and fight for a fair outcome for you, whether by negotiating the removal of online content with the platform or with the content creator themselves.
An Attorney Give You Peace of Mind During a Stressful & Difficult Process
Whether you are filing a lawsuit or defending against one, lawsuits can be draining and challenging. An experienced defamation attorney can provide support, guidance, and advice during this difficult time.
Why Should You Hire a Lawyer Over Defamatory Instagram Posts?
Becoming the victim of Instagram defamation can tarnish your personal and professional reputation. Hiring a lawyer can result in protecting, defending, and restoring your good name.
If there are defamatory posts about you online, they may affect your job or career. Your current employer may find the posts online, which could cost you your job. Or if you are currently looking for a job, potential employers may come across these posts and choose not to hire you.
Defamatory posts on Instagram could also have a major effect on your business. If an Instagram user is attacking and making false and defamatory statements about your business, you may see a drop in customers or clientele. This reduced business could result in a loss of profits and perhaps your entire business.
Alternatively, if you are the one who made the posts online and you receive a cease and desist letter or are served with a summons and complaint or petition, you should consult with a lawyer to discuss your situation.
How Long Does the Legal Process Take on a Social Media Defamation Case?
The timeline for a social media defamation case varies depending on the state and court in which your case is pending. The total time from filing your lawsuit to when the case goes to trial could be anywhere from one to three years.
The process of filing a social media defamation case generally looks like this:
The Lawsuit is Filed
A complaint or petition is filed to initiate the case. A case or cause number is assigned and service of the summons and complaint is issued to the defendant.
The Discovery Process
Shortly after a case is filed and the defendant has submitted an answer, the judge will most likely issue a scheduling order to set dates, including discovery deadlines.
Mediation & Settlement Negotiations
Once the discovery process ends, the parties begin discussing settlement. The vast majority of cases settle before going to trial.
If a case does not settle, it will go to trial. A defamation trial could last from one day to a week or more, depending on the complexity of your matter.
Some trials are rescheduled due to scheduling conflicts or unforeseen circumstances. It is not uncommon for trials to be rescheduled two or three times.
Suing for Defamatory Comments on Instagram
Whether you are a business or an individual, defamatory comments can hurt your reputation. When a comment crosses the line into defamation, a lawsuit can be filed in civil court.
Can You Sue Someone For Slander on Instagram?
Yes. You can sue for slander if you have a valid defamation claim; however, you should avoid suing the social media platform itself. Since social media platforms like Instagram are generally protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, your best option is usually to sue the individual poster.
How Much Does It Cost to Sue Someone for Instagram Defamation?
Several factors can impact the costs of a defamation lawsuit, including:
- Whether you are seeking monetary relief,
- If a defendant’s identity is known or unknown,
- Whether a court order is necessary to remove the content in question,
- The amount of defamatory content online,
- Whether time is of the essence,
- Fees for local counsel,
- Whether the case is contested by the other side, and
- The type of attorney fee structure to which you agree.
For non-contested defamation suits, we estimate monthly bills to be between $1,000-$3,000. The average total cost for uncontested cases is $15,000.
Based on our internal accounting data, for contested defamation cases, costs usually range between $4,000-$6,000 per month throughout the duration of the case. If your lawsuit goes to trial, the cost of a trial in defamation cases may range between $30,000 and $60,000 in total.
It is important to note that every defamation lawsuit is different. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to determine the total cost of a case.
Minc Law Fact: Many defamation cases settle out of court, which is the much cheaper route. Taking a case to trial can involve multiple attorneys, and the trials can last for days or weeks. Even the visual evidence and demonstrations needed at trials add extra costs.
When Can You Sue Someone for Making Defamatory Comments on Instagram?
If your or your business’s reputation has been damaged because of a comment made on Instagram, you may be able to pursue a defamation lawsuit against the individual(s) who posted the comment(s). By taking legal action, you may be able to recover compensation for the damages you have suffered.
What Legal Claims Are Available to Me?
Victims of defamatory content on Instagram may be able to sue under one or more statutes, including, but not limited to: defamation, false light, invasion of privacy, or breach of contract. Read on below for more information about these different claims.
Defamation of Character
An Instagram comment that attacks or defames the reputation or character of another person or business may be grounds for a defamation of character lawsuit. See below for the elements that must be present for a valid defamation claim.
If an Instagram comment or post is false or misleading, you may have a claim for false light. To sue for false light, you must show that the comment:
- Was made about you,
- Is false or misleading,
- Is highly offensive or embarrassing, and
- Was published with reckless disregard as to its offensiveness.
Invasion of Privacy
You may also be able to sue for invasion of privacy if an Instagram user shares embarrassing or private information or photos of you without your consent. You can also sue for invasion of privacy if the poster is using your name or likeness without your permission.
For example, if a business on Instagram is using your image to promote a product without your permission, you may be able to sue that business for invasion of privacy.
Breach of Contract
Today, many employers have rules or policies in place about what employees can and cannot post online. If your employee has broken this rule by violating the company’s social media policy, you may have a legal claim against this person.
What Are the Elements of an Online Defamation Claim?
To have a valid claim for online defamation, the content you are claiming is defamation must:
- Be a statement of fact. To have an actionable claim, there must have been a false statement made either about you or your business. Someone’s opinion is not a statement of fact.
- Be communicated to a third person. For a viable claim, the false statement must be communicated or published to a third party, such as on Instagram.
- Be made with at least a negligent level of intent. This means that the poster was careless when they made the statement. They did not exercise the reasonable prudence that an ordinary person would exercise in a similar circumstance.
- Have caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation. You must be able to prove that your reputation has been damaged or that you have suffered some sort of harm as a result of the defaming statement.
We Can Help You Fight Back Against Slander on Instagram
Remember, you are not alone when it comes to fighting online defamation, harassment, and cyber-bullying. Countless individuals and businesses have experienced the same thing.
“Fast. Legit. Can’t thank Melanie enough for this service. Feel like I have my life back again. Do not hesitate if you’re thinking of using them.”
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If you are the victim of slander on Instagram, we offer a no-obligation, initial defamation consultation. by calling (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our contact form today.
Hannah Miao. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram need to make these changes to fight online harassment, nonprofit says. CNBC (2021).