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Defamation: Why You Should Bite Your Tongue

Social media has made it incredibly easy and fast for a person to make a defamatory statement against someone. Defamation is a term that refers to any statement that is intended to hurt someone’s reputation. Many social media platforms allow for people to “publish” a statement that can potentially reach thousands of people. If that statement is in writing and published, the defamation is called “libel.” If it is spoken, then the statement is then considered to be “slander.”

Although not technically a crime, defamation is considered to be a civil wrong or a tort. A tort is a wrongful act that unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability. Any person can be sued under defamation law if a person has suffered from a defamatory statement.

The law on defamation changes depending on which state you are in. Yet there are some accepted standards. The main things to consider when filing a defamation lawsuit are the following:

  1. Someone has made a statement
  2. That statement was published
  3. The statement caused you injury
  4. The statement was false
  5. The statement did not fall into a privileged category

Each element holds significant weight in determining the outcome of your lawsuit. Understanding what each element is and how it affects your lawsuit is crucial.

1. The Statement:

A statement either spoken, written, or otherwise expressed in some manner.

2. Publication:

For a statement to be considered published, a third party must have seen, heard or read the defamatory statement. A third party is someone apart from the person making the statement and the subject of the statement. The word published does not mean it has to be specifically in a book, instead, it refers to any platform such as television, social media, directories, someone’s door, etc.

3. Injury:

One of the most important elements in your lawsuit will be the injury caused by the defamatory statement. To succeed in your lawsuit, one must be able to show how a statement has caused injury to the subject of the statement. In other words, show that the subject’s reputation has been hurt by the statement.

4. Falsity:

Defamation law will only consider statements to be defamatory if they are, in fact, false.

5. Unprivileged:

In order for a statement to be defamatory, it must be unprivileged. If a statement is considered to be privileged, then a one cannot sue for defamation. A privileged statement is one that was made in a context that is generally deserving of protection, for instance, a testimony. Follow the link for more information on privileges.