10-point checklist on avoiding a claim of defamation

04 - 01 - 2021

Penned by Vidyashree

4 min read

The Internet is the easiest medium to gain attention and fame. But, at the same time, you can be threatened, bullied, and worn out bad for your published content. One day your work might be appreciated and another day can be criticized. This may lead to someone completely making up false stories about you or the published work that may get accused of defaming another person in it. So, let’s look into factors to avoid a claim of defamation or something that can damage your reputation.

Defining defamation

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Defamation means instances where a false online statement creates problems for a person or company. It is an act of harming the reputation of another person by publishing a false or unprivileged statement of fact as a result of negligence or malice

What is the difference between defamation, slander, and libel?

Slander and libel are two types of defamation. Libel is a defamation type that occurs when a false statement is written whether through an online review, blog post, editorial, comment, or a forum post. While, slander is a false claim committed through spoken word in a podcast, audiobook, or video.

Elements of a defamation claim

The elements that need to be proved to establish defamation claims include,

⦿ A false fact or statement

⦿ A publication to one other than the person defamed

⦿ The statement made is not mere opinion but a verifiable fact

Pointers to avoid defamation claims

What does my reader read this as?

You must be aware of what you are expressing through your publication. Read your piece from a reader’s perspective. The line you quote about a third person might seem falsely stated to your reader as he might read between the lines. So, try to remove the unwanted tension from your writing to avoid further problems.

What do I mean?

Be very clear of what you mean through your writing. Usage of words and phrases must not convey a defamation angle or perspective to the writing. You must eliminate ambiguity and convey precise meaning.

Do I have the right sources?

Even mentioning certain information or details related to your topic, make sure you quote the right sources. Publish information about a person or company with researched or authentic data.

What I don’t know?

Be honest with your reader, mention whether you know or don’t know about a particular issue. This can save you from false allegations and you can gain trust from your readers too.

Is it an opinion?

Pose your ideas or thoughts as your opinion and not as an established fact. Expressing opinion doesn’t account for defamation when written in a tone like, “I think”, “I suggest”, “I believe”, “They claim”, “It appears as”, etc. But, these options also should be based on true facts.

May I put it together?

Compile your researched work together to support a statement. This will portray the work as real or true.

What’s going on in his mind?

When accusing a person of a crime-related offense then support the topic with valid and strong evidence. It is important to know a person’s mental state before making any allegations.

Can I use privilege defenses?

Certain types of communications are privileged. This means, the person making statements has the absolute right to make the statement at the time, which might be defamatory too. Few events listed under the Defamation Act, people are slagging each other during an occasion in a council meeting, press conference, or public inquiries, you are excluded from defamation. It can be taken as an advantage when reported in a fair and accurate manner.

What is meant by acting ethically?

Acting by ethics can protect you from defamatory claims even when you commit one. The issue to correct the published article mistake and apologize for the same. This will again sympathy to you from the judge and jury even when you don’t have a defense.

What is next?

Be aware of the consequences when you write about celebrities, politicians, lawyers, or journalists. Some people hold power and their reputation in society matters a lot to them. So, be careful while discussing these personalities in your write up.

Conclusion

Defamation law and its punishment differ from country to country. With the increasing usage of the online mediums, information is sent and received at a faster pace with which tags along with the fact of criticism and feedback. Freedom to speech and expression shouldn’t be misused leading to defaming an individual or a company. Be aware of what you write and what you read.

One Comment on 10 point checklist- Defamation

    vijay prasath
    January 6, 2021

    This is insightful

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