Understanding the laws regarding Internet defamation, libel and slander is crucial, whether you are the victim of such negative publicity or being accused of it. To be classified as libel, an article, posting or comment needs to meet the following criteria:
1. The foremost factor in determining libel is whether it can be proven that the statement composed of false information. Facts differ from opinion in that a fact can be proven either true or false. An opinion is generally not an actionable case of defamation.
2. If the statement is false, it must be demonstrated that it is harmful to your reputation. Many false statements are posted throughout the Internet. To be considered libel, you will need to demonstrate that the false claim brought harm to you or your company’s reputation.
3. In order to be classified as libel, it must also be demonstrated that the statement has been researched adequately enough to prove its falsehood. Often, plaintiff take the approach of proving that the false statement was posted with the full knowledge that it contained false information.
4. If the subject of the false statement happens to be a public official or celebrity, the plaintiff will need to prove that the statement was made with malicious intent. “Malice”, from a legal standpoint, is when the originator of the statement was motivated by harming the individual and disregarding the truth.
"People are often confused by the differences in defamation, libel and slander. Frequently court systems handle Internet defamation in a manner similar to that of normal defamation," said Brockton Hunter, a criminal defense lawyer.
However, there are differences when false statements are posted online:
Defamation: This is a catch-all term for both libel and slander. It refers to false statements made with the intention of harming a person or company.
Libel: In regard to the Internet, libel refers to defamation written on a web site. This could be in the form of text on a web page, blog post, review or comment.
Slander: Online, slander occurs when audio or video files contain spoken defamation.