Slander on Facebook Lawsuit: Can I Sue Because of Slanderous Content on Facebook?
Twitter, blogs, Facebook, various review websites – the Internet may have been created to provide an information superhighway, but in addition to providing the answer to every possible question that can be asked, it has also provided a blank slate upon which anybody can write anything, anytime. We’ve all seen and heard the news stories about people and posters getting into trouble for their inflammatory comments that they’ve posted in haste, but can these comments actually lead to legal trouble? Can slander on Facebook result in a successful libel lawsuit?
The legal answer is a definitive and resounding yes. Defamation, the legal term for a statement that causes damage to someone’s reputation, applies just as readily to comments posted online as it does to something written in a newspaper or book, and all of the same legal requirements and standards apply. What this means is that if you want to sue somebody because of slanderous content they’ve posted about you on Facebook, you need to be able to prove that all four elements of defamation apply. These are:
• The statements were published and read by a third party
• The statements were not true
• The statements were about the plaintiff
• The statements harmed the plaintiff’s reputation
Though it’s understandable to be upset by a comment that somebody may have tweeted or posted for all the world to see, it is important before beginning legal proceedings to address whether the cause of your concern does in fact meet all of these requirements. If what has been posted is an opinion, or is largely couched in terms that are subjective rather than objective, it will be difficult to prove them untrue. By the same token, a poster does not automatically avoid liability for slander by simply putting the words “in my opinion” (or IMHO, to use Facebook vernacular), within the body of the post. It’s also important to remember that if you are a person who holds an elevated position in the public eye, it is far more difficult to sue over a defamatory statement.
Still, if comments that are posted to Facebook cause serious harm and are patently untrue, it may make sense to file a lawsuit against those who have posted them. Consider the case of the Texas couple that had been accused of and then found innocent of sexual assault charges. Though the accusation and subsequent trial would have been difficult enough, they also faced thousands of comments posted on the website Topix accusing them of being molesters, sexual deviants and drug dealers. The couple pursued their anonymous posters; they were able to identify them as the accuser, her husband and his associates, and won a $13.7 million judgment against them for making defamatory comments. The fact that the couple had been cleared of the charges established the comments as false, and they were easily able to show that the posts had caused them significant damage within their community. Those who believe themselves invulnerable to legal responsibility because they believe that they are protected or invisible on the Internet should sit up and take note.
Read more about Slander here: