Defamatory or libellous content about you, or your company can have devastating effects on your reputation.
It can travel fast online, and the longer it stays there, the more people see it, and the bigger the damage to you.
We work with companies and brands to help them remove and challenge unwanted content, as well as supporting and advising them on any legal issues. We partner with several legal firms to advise our clients on the legal options available when faced with unwanted content.
Here are some of the issues we can help you with:
- Confidential company information posted without consent
- False or threatening company profiles set up on social and professional media platforms
- Defamatory comments and opinions relating to commercial issues – often with no substantiation.
- Outdated and irrelevant content.
If you are the victim of online defamation, you need to understand the law. Defamation laws differ by country.
Defamation laws in the US
For example, in the US, defamation relates to a false statement of fact which harms the reputation of a person or company. Both slander and libel are forms of defamation.
Libel is defamation which is written, for example, on a website, comment, blogpost, review or rating. Slander is defamation that’s spoken, for example in a broadcast, transcribed video or podcast.
For a comment, post or article to constitute online (internet) libel, you must:
- Prove that the statement constitutes a false statement of fact. A fact is different from an opinion. A fact can be proven true or false. Opinions are typically not actionable as defamation.
- Prove that the false statement of fact harms your reputation. There are many false statements posted online. To constitute libel, a statement must be false and must cause harm to you or your company’s reputation.
- Ensure that the false statement of fact causing harm is made without adequate due diligence or research into the truthfulness of the statement. Or that the false statement of fact was made with full knowledge of its falsity.
- Prove ‘malice’ if the person who is the subject of the false statement of fact is a celebrity or public official. Malice is proven when the ‘author’ intended to do harm or acted with reckless disregard of the truth in making the statements.
The US also has a unique law governing accountability relating to acts of online defamation. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which absolves internet service providers (hosting companies, websites, developers, etc) of defamation liability over user and comments and content. It’s why the likes of Twitter and Facebook aren’t sued every time a user commits an act of libel on such platforms.
In the US, federal defamation law is closely tied to the first amendment. As a result, the laws are more defendant-friendly in the US than in common law countries such as Canada and the UK. Opinion is not considered defamation. But false statements of fact that harm the reputation of individuals or businesses are protected under Constitutional Free Speech provisions.
Defamation laws in India
In India, defamation can be viewed as a civil offence and criminal offence and is defined as the writing, publication and speaking of a false statement which causes injury to reputation and good name for private interest. Reputation is an integral and important part of the dignity of an individual. Right to reputation is an inherent right guaranteed by Article 21 and called as natural rights.
Rights of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India is not absolute and has imposed reasonable restrictions for exercising rights in the interest of the security of state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, morality, contempt of court and defamation. Only Defamation Laws protect individual’s private interest and reputation.
Civil defamation is covered under Law of Torts. In civil defamation, a victim can seek damages in the form of monetary compensation from the accused. Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code allows the victim to file a criminal case for defamation. Punishment for the guilty person is imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or both.
If you’d like to know more, please contact Roz Sheldon.