Online Defamation vs. Freedom of Speech | Paul Sternberg
Paul Sternberg of Houston is here to teach you about how the internet works. Defamation is the act of damaging the positive reputation of an individual or organization (such as a business or charity) with false statements. It’s also known commonly as slander or libel and is a regular concern for many internet users today. Paul Sternberg works to educate readers on what defamation is and what options are available to them so they can determine the proper course of action in a timely manner.
Most websites that allow posting on their pages include a defamation clause in their service agreement that gives moderators the power to remove defamatory comments. However, defamation first must be proven–and it must be proven within a certain time frame. Certain rules (called the statute of limitations) allow defamation allegations to be processed only within a certain window of time (usually 1-3 years, but it varies by state). Choosing to act outside of this window may result in defamation comments remaining permanently online.
“Considering how easy it is to post anonymously online today, there have to be laws against defamation to protect people’s reputation,” says Paul Sternberg of Houston, TX.
To help illustrate online defamation, Paul Sternberg uses the example of social media, one of the most popular forms of communication online today: Consider a business or company creates a Facebook page where they update customers on upcoming deals or events and allow them to leave feedback. Should someone comment on this page and leave a negative review of the business, it reflects poorly on their services in a public space. However, it isn’t illegal and doesn’t immediately qualify as defamation. Suppressing the comment, for this reason, would be a violation of the free speech of the commenter.
Paul Sternberg of Houston | Personal View
If that same commenter leaves a statement that accuses the business of illegal activities when there’s no actual merit to their claim, then the poster may have to face legal charges. The accusation is likely to cost the business customers and money–regardless of the defamatory statement is true or false. The company may then choose to seek the removal of the comment (either by sending a personal message or contacting Facebook) and possibly seek compensation for the libel.
Defamation isn’t limited to attacks on businesses or companies, either. Consider that a group of people regularly meet up on online forums to discuss either personal or professional matters. Should one of the members make a damaging claim against another for the rest of the group to see–and the statement is false—then the victim of the defamatory attack may wish to have the comment removed to avoid future visitors seeing. The defamatory statement was likely to cause damage to their reputation and lose them esteem in highly-regarded circles, so they may even seek to sue, in addition.
“Whether people should sue a party who made defamatory statements online against them is dependent on the situation and the unique factors involved,” says Paul Sternberg. “When in doubt, and always in the case of a lawsuit, attorneys and legal teams who have handled defamatory claims in the past should be consulted.”
A qualified legal team like Paul Sternberg will help determine the potential for a resolution for each case, whether the situation qualifies as defamation, and what steps should be taken for a swift resolution.