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Social Media Retaliation Post: Slander or Libel?

In the Social Media Age, libel and slander can be devastating to a person or the reputation of a business.  Venting, publicly, privately or anonymously about your conflict or dissatisfaction can possibly lead to overwhelming retaliation. The difficulty with venting on any social media platform is that people and businesses are listening and what’s said in the social media spaces and places can be easily disseminated around the web in seconds. Sometimes, one person’s complaint prompts others to vent with even sharper, harsher complaints.

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 “Most people have no idea of the liability they face when they publish something online,” says Eric Goldman, an Internet law expert at Santa Clara University. A whole new generation can publish now, but they don’t understand the legal dangers they could face. Many of those businesses that have been bashed by previous clients or employees have turned to the courts in order for their business name to be restored. And in Canada, courts are also ordering ISPs to identify individuals who have posted defamatory material online anonymously, writes attorney Maanit Zemel in a July 26 article in Law Times. 

The Times Article reported, a District of Nevada order was upheld by the San Francisco – based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which enforced the ISP identities of three individuals who were charged with an “Internet smear campaign via anonymous postings” against Quixtar, a multi-level marketing (MLM) or network marketing company.  Quixtar had sued, contending the postings were damaging to its business. The judge who first ordered the disclosure said the Internet had “great potential for irresponsible, malicious and harmful communication.” Moreover, the “speed and power of Internet technology makes it difficult for the truth to ‘catch up to the lie,’ ” he wrote.

Thus, a plaintiff who seeks to unveil the anonymous bloggers must be aware of the possible legal repercussions as well.   Those who proceed without a sufficient basis to establish a defamation claim might face significant consequences down the road. Media law experts also repeat the advice that bloggers and e-mailers need to think twice before a posting an ill message.

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