Online defamation, also known as web defamation, cyber defamation or internet defamation, is a growing problem in the digital age.
With the rise of social media and online platforms, it has become easier than ever for people to spread false or harmful statements about others online.
This can have serious consequences for individuals, businesses, and organisations, including damage to reputation, loss of business, and even legal action. In this article, we cover what online defamation involves, why it’s increasing, and what you can do about it.
What is Online Defamation?
Online defamation refers to the act of making false or harmful statements about an individual, business, or organisation through the use of online platforms such as social media, blogs, forums, and other websites. Such statements may be libellous or slanderous, depending on whether they are published in written or spoken form, respectively.
Examples of online defamation can include false accusations of wrongdoing, negative reviews or comments, and malicious rumours or gossip. Defamatory content can also take the form of images, videos, or audio recordings that are published on the Internet with the intention of harming the reputation or credibility of the victim.
What is an example of Online Defamation?
An example of defamation could be a false statement made about a person or business that harms their reputation. For instance, if someone writes on social media that a restaurant has a history of food poisoning and it causes a decrease in business, but there is no truth to the claim, then that could be considered a defamatory statement.
Another example could be if someone falsely accuses an individual of a crime or wrongdoing and it causes harm to their reputation or causes them to lose their job.
If someone defames you on social media, there are several steps you can take:
- Document the defamation: Take screenshots of the defamatory posts or comments as evidence.
- Contact the person: Try to reach out to the person who defamed you and ask them to remove the posts or comments. Sometimes, a simple conversation can resolve the issue.
- Report the posts: Most social media platforms have a reporting feature that allows you to report posts that violate their community guidelines. This can prompt the social media platform to remove the defamatory content.
- Seek legal advice: If the defamation is severe or causing significant harm to your reputation, it may be necessary to consult with a lawyer who specialises in defamation law. They can advise you on your legal options and help you pursue legal action if necessary.
It’s important to remember that defamation laws vary by jurisdiction, so it’s important to research the laws in your area and consult with a lawyer who is familiar with defamation law in your jurisdiction.
Why is Online Defamation Increasing?
There are several factors that contribute to the increase in online defamation. Firstly, the Internet has made it easier for people to spread information quickly and easily. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allow users to share their thoughts and opinions with a wide audience, often without considering the consequences of their actions.
Secondly, the anonymity of the Internet can embolden people to say things they would not say in person. People can hide behind fake names and accounts, making it difficult to hold them accountable for their actions.
Finally, the rise of fake news and disinformation has created an environment where people are more likely to believe false or harmful statements about others. This can lead to the spread of rumours and conspiracy theories, which can be damaging to individuals, businesses, and organisations.
What Can People Do About Online Defamation?
If you are the victim of online defamation, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your reputation. The first step is to document any defamatory content, including screenshots or copies of the content itself. This can help you build a case if you decide to pursue legal action.
Next, you can contact the website or platform where the content was posted and request that it be removed. Most social media platforms and websites have a process for reporting and removing content that violates their terms of service.
If the defamation is particularly egregious or involves threats or harassment, you may also consider contacting law enforcement or a lawyer. Defamation laws vary from country to country, but in general, victims of defamation may be able to seek legal action against the perpetrator. This may involve requesting the removal of defamatory content from the internet, seeking damages for any harm caused, or pursuing criminal charges.
It’s important to note that prevention is also key when it comes to online defamation. By being mindful of what you post online and avoiding making false or harmful statements about others, you can help prevent online defamation from happening in the first place.
Online defamation is a serious problem that can have real-world consequences for individuals, businesses, and organisations.
While the Internet has made it easier for people to spread information quickly and easily, it has also created an environment where false or harmful statements can be spread with little regard for the truth.
If you are the victim of online defamation, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your reputation, including documenting the defamatory content, requesting its removal, and pursuing legal action if necessary. By being mindful of what you post online, you can help prevent online defamation from happening in the first place.
Author: Ian Aldridge has almost 20 years of experience in providing legal advice to SMEs both in Australia and in the UK. He founded Progressive Legal in 2014 with a NewLaw view of providing better services to growing Australian businesses. He is passionate about protecting them and their owners and has a wealth of experience.