Slander Per Se
The tort of defamation that refers to a false statement concerning a person or business that damages that person’s or business’s reputation. The statement can be made in 2 ways:
- written (known as libel) or
- spoken (known as slander) form.
Slander Per Se (or Defamation per se) is the legal doctrine that there are certain statements which are so inherently defamatory and libelous, that damage to a plaintiff’s reputation will be presumed and they will not need to prove damages.
What Constitutes Slander Per Se?
4 types of statements:
Most States in the U.S. and their defamation laws outline four types of statements which would be considered Slander Per Se:
- Crime: Statements charging the plaintiff with having committed a crime or a crime of moral turpitude.
- Loathsome Disease: Statements imputing the plaintiff suffers from a loathsome disease (typically, STDs & leprosy).
- Chastity: Statements imputing the plaintiff is unchaste and has engaged in sexual misconduct.
- Profession: Statements imputing the plaintiff has acted improperly or committed misconduct in regards to their trade, occupation, profession, or business.
In these circumstances a statement will always be considered defamatory and will be assumed to harm a person’s reputation without the need to provide proof of harm.
Libel or Slander? Which One is It When You Are Defamed On the Internet?
The age old question that most people seem to mix up. Which one is it when someone posts false and defamatory material about you or your business on the Internet? Libel or slander?
We’ll get to all of that in the body of this post, but first, let’s tackle the social construct and context of online defamation.
Online defamation has the potential to cause significant damage to not only a person’s reputation, but to their:
- Social relationships,
- Professional relationships,
- Financial security,
- Mental health, and
- Loved ones.
In the last few decades, defamation has evolved from a construct limited by community and inefficient channels of communication, such as a newspaper, magazine, or telephone, to now a tangible reality at the fingertips of anyone with a computer, smartphone, or PC. Now, instead of affecting injured parties at a small-town or geographically limited level, online defamation knows no boundaries and can follow a person across the world – permeating language, class, and country.
Defamation is now on a global scale.
All thanks to the Internet and World Wide Web, online defamation and its meteoric rise has come upon us at an alarming rate. Whereas, we used to have to deliberately sit down to hand-write a note or compose an email, now, such period of cooling off is long gone. And today, most people are electronically plugged in wherever they are, whether it be the subway, library, or even the middle of the countryside.
A moment of anger and jealousy can have devastating effects – delegating the role of judge, jury, and executioner to one person. Additionally, the proliferation of consumer advocacy and review sites provides a newfound incentive for posters to maliciously attack and defame businesses in order to obtain free or discounted products and services.
As you can see from our site, defamation has spread so wide, and embedded itself in the deepest fabrics of society, that we have made a profession out of combatting the humiliation and embarrassment brought on by it.
Now, let’s get into more technical definitions of what constitutes defamation of character, its elements, and common defenses used by defendants. We will also explore persons who are high risk of becoming a victim of online libel and defamation.
If you’ve been the victim of online libel or defamation, time is of the essence. Online defamation is like a wildfire, and should be put out before it has time to spread and cement itself into Google and Internet search results.
We’re here to protect your reputation.
Slander vs. Libel
Libel and slander are both types of defamation, which is defined as a false statement published to a third-party damaging a person’s reputation. Libel and slander possess the same elements, but come in different form. Let’s first tackle the overarching definition of defamation of character, which requires the following four elements be proved by the plaintiff in order to succeed in their claim.
- The factual statement or assertion was untrue,
- The false statement was made by the defendant was unprivileged,
- The defendant made the statement with at least negligence, and in some cases actual malice, and
- The false factual statement caused harm to the targeted individual’s standing or reputation leading to damages or other harm. Or, the statement was so inherently defamatory, that the plaintiff need not prove damages – also known as defamation per se.
Let’s break defamation down even further, which can be classified into both slander and libel.
Slander is a false spoken statement damaging another person’s reputation, while libel is a false written statement damaging another’s reputation. The general public usually mixes up the two, and considers anything that is defamatory to be slander, when in fact, online defamation should be correctly named ‘online libel’ – due to it appearing in written form. Think about the various forms of communication on the Internet; blog posts, emails, webpages, forum postings, and other textual forms – these would all be considered online libel.
For reference, the party making a libelous or slanderous statement is often referred to as a:
- Defamer, or
- Famacide (a lesser known term).
Factual statements are statements that can be proven or disproven.
Libel Removal Tip: Defamation insurance is a powerful tool if you are a party at high-risk of defamation and libel claims. Defamation insurance covers libel and should be procured if you are a freelancer, journalist, or independent contractor who engages in high-profile work.
Note that when proving the third element of defamation, depending on whether a plaintiff is a private or public figure, they will have different burdens in proving the intent the defendant acted with.
- Private individual: Private individuals have not availed themselves to a public life, therefore when defamatory statements are made about them and published online, it is an extreme invasion of their privacy. Therefore, private individuals are only required to prove the defendant acted negligently when making or publishing the statement. Private individuals should not have to jump through countless hoops to bring a claim after being defamed online.
- Public official: Public officials have taken the risk that acting as a public figure, they will be discussed about – in furtherance of politics, social policy, and the overall public’s right to stay informed. When bringing a claim for defamation, the standard is a bit tougher for public officials, and they are required to prove the defendant acted with actual malice, or reckless disregard.
An important note when dealing with online defamation – it can take many forms. Even video and audio recordings on the Internet (two forms of defamation becoming increasingly popular), remarks made in a podcast, Youtube, or other recordings can all be considered defamation – and most correctly defined as libel.
Keep in mind that no matter the medium it is conveyed in online, as long as it is a published false statement or accusation, it will amount to defamation – libel or slander.
Ohio Defamation Law Fact: In Ohio, defamation defendants may retract prior defamatory statements prior to litigation, however, such retraction will not bar any plaintiff action. It may however mitigate a plaintiff’s possible damages.
If you’ve found your name or reputation libeled online, it’s imperative you act swifty. Contact an experienced defamation removal attorney in order to secure a permanent takedown.
Common Defenses to Libel & Slander
Defendants may have several defenses at their disposal when faced with a defamation claim. Keep in mind that the definition of defamation is the assertion of a false statement of fact. Remembering this will help make sense of the following defenses.
- Truth: If the statement concerning the plaintiff is true, then there is no falsity of the statement, and thus, no claim for libel or slander.
- Opinion: A fundamental test to determine whether a statement is opinion or fact is whether the statement can be proved true or false in a court of law. If it cannot be proved true, then it is classified as opinion, and vice versa.
- Absolute Privilege: Absolute privilege is the legal right to say or communicate a statement and will typically apply in legislative proceedings, and when giving evidence in court. A statement qualifies as absolutely privileged (even if defamatory) when it is necessary the statement be heard for social, political, or other important reasons. Absolute privilege even protects statements made with actual malice.
- Conditional Privilege: Conditional or “qualified” privilege may be used as a defense in situations where the statement was made in interest of furthering public interest – such as a journalist reporting on a certain matter or a university president writing an unfavorable letter of recommendation for a professor. Qualified privilege will not protect statements made with actual malice.
- Consent: Plaintiffs who consent to having a defamatory statement made or published about them will be barred from bringing a defamation claim.
- Fair Comment on a Matter of Public Interest: A more nuanced defense, fair comment on a matter of public interest will protect against a defamation claim where the defendant acted in good faith and honest belief when making a statement concerning public interest. It will be upheld if a court determines a reasonable person could honestly entertain such a thought.
Ohio Defamation Law Tip: Ohio and twelve other states recognize what are referred to as “food libel laws,” or food disparagement, and veggie libel laws. Food libel laws exist to provide producers, manufacturers, and processors of food easier remedy when their products have been falsely and maliciously attacked.
Which Parties Are at High Risk of Online Libel?
Most people completely discount online defamation and don’t think it could possibly affect or impact their lives. Although that may be a reasonable assumption to make, it’s important to remember that defamation does not discriminate, and the crux of the claim is that the statement is “untrue.” Therefore, even if you’re a model citizen, there’s still malicious persons and online trolls out there who are looking to push their own agendas by posting false content online.
Such reasons for posting defamatory statements online can include:
- A heated argument or exchange online or in your daily life
- A recent break-up with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse
- A customer who feels that he or she did not get a fair shake
- A business competitor
- A jealous social competitor
- Mistakes on a website that displays mugshots
- Mistakes on a website naming sexual predators
Unfortunately the above covers only a few of the more common scenarios for internet defamation. The sad fact in today’s world is inaccurate and damaging posts can appear without warning from even a minor disagreement or awkward interaction.
Some high-risk professions include:
- Independent contractors,
- Journalists, and
High-risk parties should look into purchasing defamation insurance, which could help lessen the overall financial impact a defamation claim has on them, especially if it tends to happen frequently.
To read up more on what defamation insurance is and the ins and outs of purchasing it, check out our comprehensive blog post titled “What is Defamation Insurance and Do I Need It?” here.
Defamation Removal Tip: A plaintiff will be deemed “libel proof,” when their reputation is in such poor standing in the community, that the disparaging and defamatory statement in question ultimately had no effect on them. Damages are an essential element of defamation claims, but when there is no damage, there is no claim.
Looking to Remove Online Defamation? Call the Libel Attorney’s at Minc Law Today!
If you’ve been the target of online libel and want to have it removed permanently, you have options. Reach out to the highly experienced libel removal attorneys at Minc Law now!
At Minc Law, we have a near 100% removal success rate, and all for a flat, reasonable fee. Our goals are your goals, so let’s get started today.
Here’s what you can expect from our team:
- Courtesy & Respect: Being the subject of a malicious online attack or post can have you feeling stressed and vulnerable. We know that, and have dealt with hundreds of cases. At Minc Law, we will treat you with the utmost respect and courtesy. After all, your goals are our goals.
- Websites Respond to Minc Law: At Minc Law, we know who to contact and how to contact them. We work closely with website administrators, third-party arbitration services, and content managers in order to explore options and secure a swift and permanent takedown.
- We’re here to work WITH you: After commencing with the takedown process, we will stay in constant contact with you, ensuring you’re updated on your rights and on any necessary changes. We pride ourselves on our communication, and will never leave you in the dark wondering “what’s next?”