In the internet era, the exchange of information and correspondence between people is instantaneous. While this is a major convenience factor, it also gives people the liberty to express their thoughts and emotions without a barrier.
Unfortunately, this has led to the emergence of a lot of negativity online, with some users saying extremely offensive, exaggerated and often untrue things about someone else on public or private platforms, essentially defaming them in the process. If you are facing such circumstances, then perhaps you might wonder if this can be tackled from a legal angle with the help of a defamation lawyer.
Is it possible to sue someone for online defamation?
In short, yes, it is possible to file a civil litigation lawsuit for online defamation. But before answering this question in detail, it’s important to understand two basic types of defamation that the law takes into consideration, which are slander and libel. If the defamation has taken place orally then it is defined as slander, and if it is in a written format, then it is considered libel. Thus, for most cases pertaining to the internet, courts will treat it as libel.
What is considered legal defamation?
To successfully sue for derogatory statements made on the internet, it is necessary to prove 3 things in court. A particular case is considered as defamation if:
- The words, written or spoken, have directly impacted your reputation in the eyes of a third party.
- The words, written or spoken, clearly refer to you.
- The words, written or spoken, were conveyed or circulated to a third party other than yourself.
How can it be disproved?
While the above conditions might seem straightforward, it’s not easy to make the allegations stick, for the defendant might also have some justification to back up their inflammatory statements. Here are some of the most common lines of defence:
Justification: The statements, spoken or written, are actually proven to be true.
Fair Comment: The statements, spoken or written, express an honest opinion on approved facts and matters of public interest.
Absolute Privilege: The statements, spoken or written, were made in the parliament, the court of law or mentioned in legal documents.
Qualified Privilege: The statements, spoken or written, can be defamatory and untrue on an occasion that is shown to be privileged because there is an interest or duty to make the statements and there is a corresponding interest in receiving them.
Responsible Communication on Matters of Public Interest: The statements, spoken or written, was made on a matter of public interest and the individual who made the statements was diligent in trying to verify the allegation.
Consent: The statements, spoken or written, were defamatory but were made with the express or implied consent of the individual about whom the statements were made.
Steps To Take If You Are Facing Defamation
While it might seem logical to go for civil litigation in the heat of the moment, it should only be considered as a last resort. Irrespective of your decision to file a lawsuit, here are 4 practical steps you can take in such a situation:
Request removal: Before the statements spread on the internet, directly contact the party that made the statements and ask them to remove or take them back.
Contact a defamation lawyer: Immediately get in touch with a professional, experienced defamation lawyer who can help navigate this situation, either through an out-of-court settlement or the actual trial.
Gather evidence: In order to prove defamation, it’s vital to have ample evidence. Hence, take screenshots and gather all kinds of related evidence that will make it easier for you to win the trial.
Refute the statement: If you are a professional or representing an organization, then immediately issue a statement of your own to refute the derogatory statements made about you or your company.
Recently in Ontario, a new common law tort of online harassment was recognized by the courts. To read more about it, visit our blog by clicking here.
Be it a contract dispute lawyer or a defamation lawyer, you can reach out to us at Melekhovets Law for expert and timely legal counsel. Our area of expertise also extends to family law and corporate law. For more details, contact us today.