Internet Defamation / Cyber Libel
In this day and age of speedy information sharing and transparency, your good name is all you have. Unfortunately, the easiest and most impactful way for your good name to be tarnished is through disparaging statements made about you on the internet.
Internet Defamation is a false or misleading comment posted about you on the internet which causes damages to your reputation or business.
Defamation is different from reporting a truth that might just hurt. If you went to a restaurant and the service was slow, you are more than entitled to report about the slow service under your First Amendment rights. You can use colorful language to describe the slow service. You can vent. But if the service was slow and you start tweeting that your waitress, Jane Doe, is a total slut, you’ve published a defamatory statement.
While most website hosts (Yelp, Google, etc.) are immune to lawsuit for what users say about each other under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). Public figures and famous people are also almost always immune from suit. So if you must go on a derogatory tweeting rampage next time your favorite football player commits a fumble, you should have no fear that he’ll go out of his way to sue you.
Individuals have no such immunity, however.
Once a victim of online defamation commences legal action, the most important relief is often obtaining an injunction requiring the person who posted the defamatory remarks to take the material off the internet. But above and beyond that, those harmed by defamatory speech online may be entitled to sizable monetary damages.
Message boards and review sites often allow users to post libelous, defamatory comments in total anonymity. Does that mean they are shielded from an internet defamation lawsuit? The answer is NO. Just because some coward changes his name doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to play by the rules (and/or pay the harsh penalties for breaking them!).
In any given internet libel or internet defamation case, there are legal mechanisms to go through to uncover the identity of the publisher of comments from “anonymous” sources.
If you find yourself a victim of online defamation or cyber libel, contact your attorney immediately. The longer you wait from published libelous comment to initiating action, the more you open yourself up for your reputation to be tarnished online. Act fast to get an injunction and, moreover, monetary damages to punish the publisher of the defamatory material!