Picture this. An article appears in the local newspaper, falsely stating that you committed a heinous crime, or perhaps the accusation came at a gathering attended by many of your friends, clients, or colleagues. If the statement was factually incorrect and the individual writing it or saying it knew that to be the case, you may be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the damage to your reputation that you’ve suffered, though the process is complicated and has numerous exceptions and nuances. But what happens when the statement is made online? Suing for online or internet defamation is an even more complex process than is true for libelous statements made in traditional publications, but that does not mean that it is impossible.
There are several factors that make suing for internet defamation difficult. One is the cloak of invisibility offered to anonymous posters sitting at a computer screen. It is all too easy for careless individuals to type a harmful accusation while hiding behind a screen name, and if their comments go “viral” it can cause significant reputational damage. But identifying the person who made the statements can be a challenge, and the law generally prevents the administrator of the platform where the statement was posted from revealing their identity. There’s also a good chance that – even if you can find out who the original poster was – they have insufficient assets to make it worthwhile to pursue a claim against them. The platform itself seems like an obvious target equivalent to suing the publication in which a libelous statement is published, but the Communications Decency Act shields these entities from liability.
In addition to the challenges of identifying a defendant, there is also the question of which court is the appropriate venue for filing an internet defamation claim. The damage generally occurs where you or your business are located, but depending upon the law in your location the claim may need to be pursued where the web host is located, or the original poster. Only once all of these questions are answered can you move forward with pursuing a claim.Internet
The internet facilitates the transmission of information and extends its reach far beyond what was true of traditional media, and that has exacerbated the harm that can be done. If you have been the victim of internet defamation it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced attorney who can help to answer all of the pertinent questions and let you know whether you have a claim that is worth pursuing. For information on how we can help, contact us today.