Blogging, Social Media, and Libel Laws

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In 2017, the number of blogs on Tumblr alone was estimated to be around 350 million, according to Stastista.com, a source considered to be trustworthy for tech stats. This is obviously quite a large number, and it is only growing more and more. So it is no surprise that in this readily available platform where anyone can exercise their right to free speech, there are a few problems to look out for. One offense that can end up quite costly is libel.  

Slander, libel laws, defamation… whatever you may want to call it, they are all in the same family, and they all are able to cause major problems.  Never write or say anything that isn’t true about a person, especially if it can damage their reputation, relationships, and/or livelihood.  It isn’t guaranteed that you will get into trouble, but if you are, libel has the potential to actually cost you millions of dollars. In fact, this has happened to a few bloggers already. Have you heard about Melania Trump and her dealings with a 70-year-old blogger from Maryland? He now has to pay her a “substantial sum.”  

So how can a person be sure that they are not putting themselves in a dangerous position by simply expressing themself? Indeed, the line can be quite hazy for many. In order to help clear things up a bit, here are some important factors about libel laws that you should know:

  • “Slander tends to refer to negative spoken messages. “Libel” is written messages.
  • “Published” simply means that the slanderous remark was able to be seen, heard, or read.  This means anything from a book, to a blog, to a message marked on the windows of a car.
  • The only instance when damaging things can be said about a person’s reputation is in court, which is where they are considered “privileged” when they are testifying.
  • Only false statements are considered defamation. No matter how awful the truth may be about someone, it is not illegal to spread this about them.
  • A major part of a libel lawsuit is about the “injury” that it has caused the individual. Examples for this could be if it causes them to lose their jobs or loved ones.

These days, it is extremely easy to commit a libel offense due to social media.  Within seconds, a person is able to reach countless people.  With blogging, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many many more possibilities, it is even more important that we take a moment to think before we post. Have fun out there, but be careful!

 

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