1. Facebook and Defamation
Almost everyone is on Facebook. Literally. Statistically, Facebook’s monthly active users exceed 2 billion people, more than one-quarter of the world’s population. Even if someone doesn’t actually have a Facebook profile, they’ve most likely heard of it or had some experience related to it. Since its inception from the dorm room of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has grown to become the world’s biggest and most popular social media platform.
What is Facebook?
Originally created as a Harvard University student directory featuring basic information and photos, Facebook quickly evolved and spread across U.S. campuses, gaining traction as the premier social network for college students. Eventually, it morphed into an all encompassing online profile, allowing for pictures, private messaging, video upload, even payment platform.
While Facebook has connected the world and allowed for too many people to count to reconnect with their former high childhood best friend, it has also caused great harm and stress for many people. Unfortunately, connecting so many people may come at a cost, and is used by a weapon and malicious tool by many. At the forefront of the malicious attacks is cyber-bullying, an increasingly popular trend in America and across the globe. For parties targeted by cyber-bullies on platforms such as Facebook, it can have catastrophic and tragic results.
Fortunately, Facebook has enacted a comprehensive reporting and privacy system in place to curb such abuse, coupled with anti-bullying campaigns and discouragement. Doing so has enabled them to connect the world, all while helping keep those connected, safe from abuse, defamation, and malicious attacks. However, sometimes malicious attacks and defamatory posts do slip through the cracks of Facebook’s security and privacy policies, requiring an injured party to act swiftly and efficiently.
Defamation Law Fact: There are an estimated 83 million fake Facebook profiles, 4.75 billion pieces of content shared daily, and 300 million photo uploads per day. Sometimes, Facebook’s security checks fail to catch certain defamatory content, so staying vigilant and taking a proactive approach towards maintaining your online, digital footprint is critical for protecting your reputation.
If you have been the victim of a post, video, or other attack on Facebook that you believe constitutes defamation, slander, or libel, you may want to learn of your legal rights and how to proceed further. Stop the abuse and attacks today by contacting the Internet defamation removal attorneys of Minc Law, who will fight to remove any offensive content harming your reputation from Facebook. To arrange a free, confidential legal consultation call (216) 373-7706 today.
2. What are Libel and Slander?
In order to increase your chances of successfully removing defamatory content from Facebook, you first need to understand the different types of defamation that exist. Defamation is generally divided into two categories; libel and slander.
- Libel is actually the correct term for any harmful and defamatory content posted on Facebook, as it involves a false written statement damaging a person’s reputation and published to a third party.
- Slander, on the other hand, is often thought to be a written statement, when in fact it is a false spoken statement damaging a person’s reputation and made to a third party.
Using “slander” as the term for false and defamatory information posted online is a misnomer, and “libel” should be used instead. Both of these terms fall under the blanket legal term of “defamation,” the act of damaging the good reputation of a person.
Defamation Law Fact: Defamation is a tort, meaning that it is a civil offense or wrong and not a criminal offense. Generally speaking, civil offenses torts are violations of a private duty, while criminal offenses are violations of a public duty.
What Does a Person Have to Prove to Establish Defamation?
While it is important to note that each state may have slight variations on what constitutes defamation, there are however some generally accepted elements of defamation that are ingrained in American law that apply to all defamation actions. If you believe that you have been defamed on Facebook, make sure the statement or content checks off the four below boxes.
- The statement is false: In order for a statement to be considered defamatory, it has to be false. Truth and opinion are two of the most common defenses to defamation, and truthful statements do not generally warrant a defamation action. Even if the statement made is horrible or offensive, if it’s true, then you most likely won’t succeed in your claim.
- The statement is unprivileged: An unprivileged statement is a statement not protected under free speech protections granted to parties commencing a legal or moral duty. Under the First Amendment, the United States Constitution grants the right of free speech to every citizen. However, there are certain situations where public policy takes precedence and allows potentially defamatory statements to be made without repercussion. Such statements are covered under the legal concept of “privilege.” The Constitution recognizes that there are some statements that are so inherent to the core of democracy and free speech, that people shouldn’t be afraid to make them or fear being sued. For example, legislators enjoy certain immunities for statements and actions made during the course of their legislative work, in order to create a fluid channel for legislative drafting.
- The statement was published to a third party: A statement is considered “published” when it is communicated to at least one other person. Most people assume a “published statement” means one that is printed in the newspaper or circulated in the media, however, publishing is as simple as making a defamatory statement to your local neighborhood grocer, or colleague. As long as a third party, apart from the defendant, hears or reads a false statement, there has been publication.
- The statement caused injury: The law was created and implemented a means for rectifying injuries. In order to bring a successful defamation suit and receive due compensation, a plaintiff needs to produce sufficient proof of an actual injury. For example, proving a false and defamatory statement led to a loss of business or customers is sufficient evidence of injury. Or, maybe you were denied a raise at work, and ostracized by coworkers.
Defamation Law Fact: Keep in mind that due to Facebook’s diversity and global reach, content or posts that are disagreeable or disturbing to you, may be the norm elsewhere and not in violation of Facebook’s Community Standards.
Private vs. Public Figures
In a defamation case, all plaintiffs are required to demonstrate the defendant was at fault by making false statements damaging the reputation of the plaintiff. But, our government has placed emphasis on the ability to speak freely about certain individuals, establishing different burdens for private and public plaintiffs must meet in order to succeed in a defamation claim.
Chances are, you aren’t a celebrity or popular public official, and haven’t opened up yourself to a certain degree of public critique and gossip, therefore you should understand as a private individual, your burden for proving defamation is much easier. You are only required to prove a defendant negligently made a defamatory statement, while public figures must prove actual malice, or a knowing falsity of the statements made.
|Key Differences||Private Individual||Public Figure|
|Burden of proof||Must prove negligence when bringing a defamation claim||Must prove actual malice when bringing a defamation claim|
|Voluntary exposure||Individuals who have not “voluntarily exposed themselves to increased risk of injury from defamatory falsehood”||Individuals who have “voluntarily exposed themselves to increased risk of injury from defamatory falsehood”|
|Access||Lack of access to public media platforms to counter defamatory and false statements made||A famous individual, or person of public interest, including celebrities, athletes, and politicians|
|Additional differences||Some states do impose a higher burden on plaintiffs for statements that are made about a private individual, but of public concern||Public figures also include “including “limited purpose public figures,” who have thrust themselves into the spotlight of a particular public controversy|
Keep in mind when bringing a claim for defamation, courts seek to try and return your reputation back to its original form, before the defamatory statements were made. Clearly, this is a hard task, and may seem impossible, but many reputations have been restored and statements forgotten about over the years. Other times, courts will order the defendant pay money to a plaintiff for the damage caused.
Courts strive to draw a fine line between free speech and defamatory statements, but sometimes the line becomes muddled and grey. If you are unsure about where a statement concerning your reputation falls on the scale, reach out to an Internet defamation lawyer to help clarify this for you and formulate an effective takedown game-plan.
Defamation Law Fact: In 2015, a radio station general manager sued a woman over a Facebook post implying a woman’s inebriation was the cause of death of her child. In one of the largest private defamation lawsuit settlements, the plaintiff was awarded $500,000 in actual and punitive damages.
3. How Do I Report Libel and Slander on Facebook?
Facebook is one of the most popular and heavily trafficked sites on the Internet. People use Facebook for a variety of reasons, from connecting with friends, colleagues, and family, to following popular music artists and politicians, to finding new jobs. However, connecting the world at the click of a button has a dark side, specifically disseminating and disclosing private information certain individuals would prefer to keep private and not leak to the world.
Fortunately, Facebook users should take solace in the fact that Facebook has a comprehensive and well-designed security system for identifying and reporting abuse.
Facebook’s Community Standards
Facebook’s Community Standards requires each user to agree certain standards and policies in order to safely and securely share information. Like most users, you most likely breezed over them when signing up for Facebook, however, if you go back and read them carefully, you will see that Facebook strongly discourages users from making harmful and malicious statements about other persons. Facebook outlines the following content as inappropriate and in violation of their Community Standards. If you want to report a user for their posts and content on Facebook, make sure it falls under one of the below categories.
- Direct Threats
- Dangerous Organizations
- Bullying and Harassment
- Attacks on Public Figures
- Criminal Activity
- Sexual Violence and Exploitation
- Sale of Regulated Goods (including prescription drugs, marijuana, and firearms)
Defamation Law Fact: Over 16 million business Facebook pages have been created since 2013, and over 92% of marketers reported that Facebook and other social media platforms are critical for business growth. Make sure to keep a watchful eye over your business’s Facebook profile and reputation, as failing to protect your business’s online reputation could result in loss of market share or customer base, ultimately, leading to its closing.
If you believe that a post has violated any of Facebook’s Community Standards, you should use their reporting link located in the upper right hand corner of all posts, photos, and comments, allowing for a quick and easy way to notify Facebook’s security team.
For a comprehensive guide on how to report messages, posts, and other site content features, check out Facebook’s step-by-step instructions here. Should you exhaust all options for reporting users and content online, Facebook encourages users to contact local law enforcement if they have been directly threatened and feel their life is in immediate danger.
Also, keep in mind that minimizing your digital footprint is an effective way to reduce personal attacks and malicious posts by others. Deleting Facebook is your best option for protecting your privacy and keeping your name out of the online world. If you are considering deleting your Facebook, you can find out the appropriate steps to take here. Take note that deleting it is permanent, while deactivating your Facebook merely hides your information.
4. Work With a Defamation Removal Attorney to Remove False and Libelous Attacks on Facebook
If your reputation has been attacked or defamed on Facebook, and you are looking to minimize the damage caused, and potentially caused, by it, Aaron Minc and his legal team at Minc Law may be able to work with you.