- 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: According to Ohio Defamation Law, 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 swiftly. Contact an experienced internet defamation removal attorney in order to secure a permanent takedown.