L~ Libel and Slander: Understanding Internet Defamation

Libel and Slander: Internet Defamation

With the advent of the internet , defamation of character is as easy to perpetuate as a blogpost.

The average person now has the ability to publish a statement, article or news item across the globe in a nano second, without an editor checking the facts. From that moment on, the statement whether it is good or bad, right or wrong, true or false, will linger in cyber space for months or even years, impossible to recover and correct, if the facts are erroneous.

Do you see the inevitable problems that must be on the rise?

As liberating as the cloak of anonymity must feel to some people, it is not a license to write negative comments about another person or a business with the intent to hurt or destroy them.  People still have their basic legal rights intact on the net, and ~likewise~ the internet is not as completely anonymous as the typical person presumes.

Is internet anonymity a license for libel and hatred?

What is defamation?

Here is a very basic and simple definition that does not cover all the details, privileges or acts or per se defamation

1.  A false statement of fact: if written it is libel, if spoken it is slander

2.  Must be made publicly or made to at least one third party- published to someone other than the one defamed

3. Made negligently -malice required if the injured party is a public official

4. That causes damages - tending to harm the reputation of the person defamed

On line slander can ruin a person's life. It is the equivalent of digital poisoning.


Blogs and forums
Blogs can damage your reputations as severely as any other type of on line commenting section. Just google the term “Dell Hell” or The Psycho Ex Wife Blog,  to see what I mean. Actually, The Psycho ex wife blog has been removed by the owner (the girlfriend of the ex-husband involved in a bitter custody battle) by order of the judge presiding over the child custody case. There was some hype a while back about the ex husband and girlfriend appealing the court’s order as an intrusion of their 1st amendment rights, but I have not read anything lately about the status of the case.  Was the judge wrong? Did her order to take down the offensive web site violate the free speech rights of the ex husband and his current girlfriend to post horrible, mean, negative, derogatory remarks about the ex-wife? I don’t know the answer to that.

It is a close call. But in my opinion it is not the right “test case” to take all the way to the Supreme Court.  However, I see here that the husband and girlfriend are seeking help from the public to save his blog and the right to degrade his ex wife. Check it out, Save the Psycho Ex Wife Blog

 Why? Because it would subject the minor children to years of exposure to the horrible things daddy and g/f wrote about mommy and they were already struggling at home and school after discovering the site’s content. 

In addition, if the remarks were false- and the judge who was presiding over this lengthy and complex custody case for several years, believed they were then the content of the site would not fall under speech that is protected by the first amendment. 

Here is a short clip about the subject.




Have you or anyone you know been the victim/target of internet libel?

I have and I can tell you that it is like living hell.

From sibling rivalry to animosity between former spouses, the trend is toward people moving their disputes and disagreements to a World Stage- The Internet.


A man named Ben, whose story is told in Violated Online a book written by Steven Myar


 

 Steven Myar's book Violated Online has an interesting perspective to share. To purchase the book, click on the link and it will take you to Amazon.com

     "Our founding fathers could not have foreseen the global ramifications that such freedom has. Unlimited technology, spontaneous broadcast, no civil decorum and the constitution have combined to unleash a very real weapon of mass destruction on an unprepared population."

Remember the movie, Fatal Attraction? Who could forget the frightening terror that the antagonist (played by Glenn Close), after a fling with a very married, Michael Douglas, launched on her bed buddy after he rejected her and told her that their fling meant nothing to him- he loved his wife and only is wife.  I bet that film scared plenty of married people whoever considered having a one night stand, seriously reconsider the idea.

Like the old saying goes, " Hell hath no furry..." Well, I have my own saying to add. "Scorn quickly escalates to rage."

My personal experience with an internet stalker on a crusade to destroy my life started with a woman who mistakenly believed I wanted an ex back in my life. She has since written a formal apology to my daughter and me for the hurt and pain she caused us by posting crazy, untrue and cruel comments about me on line. She had admitted to making the comments under the veil of anonymity, but not until after my teenage daughter stumbled across the grotesque remarks, such as I didn't love my children, I had confessed to her that I was going to kill my entire family including my children, that my children hated me and begged for strangers to take them home, that I was a prostitute who engaged in sexual activities with my clients in exchange for drugs, and many more. I just got nauseated reliving the terror of that woman and how much she made my children cry.  I didn't think I would ever write about that horrific experience, but I hope that people can see how much damage we have the power to cause if we let our emotions dance with our keyboard when we are angry, hurt, or not thinking clearly.

Gone are the days of gossiping about someone in the restroom and when we come to our senses we apologize and people move on to the next topic of gossip withing a couple of days.  We live in a a time where whatever we write on the internet will be with us forever. It can come back to haunt you.

This woman wrote her outlandish comments either as "anonymous" or often she took on a fictitious role of someone like a friend of the family, a swim coach, a neighbor, She pretended to be anyone from a former next door neighbor to my son's school teacher. Unbeknown to her, I was the room parent for my son's classroom at the time and the teacher was livid when I showed it to her.  This woman's comments were so scary that I began to question her mental stability and I feared for the safety of my kids. I was afraid she my pose as a friend and try and take them from a sports practice or something.  I was a nervous wreck, walking on eggshells.


As I said, she finally took responsibility for what she did. She admitted writing all of the mean, untrue and malicious comments about me. But not before

(1) My teenage daughter read the horrific remarks

(2) Not until after I paid a boat load of money to hire an internet defamation attorney and a "cyber detective" to track her IP addresses and other digital data he referred to as the digital fingerprint or digital  D.N.A.  and I had concrete proof that she was the lone commenter who left dozens of comments all designed to destroy me.

It is a sick and hopeless feeling to have someone on the prowl attacking you like this.  The woman did admit in her apology letter that she finally realized that I was not then nor had I ever been a threat to her relationship (I was happily married with a family). She stated that it was her own insecurity of losing her partner that prompted her to  act impulsively late at night when she was drinking, vulnerable and alone.  I actually felt sorry for her- a little

Does she know the damage she caused me? My family? My business? Doubtful

Does she care? I don't know-Doubtful.


I brought this up for a few reasons.


1.     Be careful when you allow anonymous comments on your blog. Check to make sure the person is not using your blog to spread her hate. While you are protected, that protection is not absolute. Once you know that someone has posted libel on your blog and you have been asked to remove it, you could possible open yourself up to liability. The current law is designed, however to protect the blog owner from this.

2.     Be careful what you write about someone in a moment of heated anger.

3.     If you are the victim or target of an online defamation slam campaign, think twice before you react and respond to the comment. Your added rebuttal comment on a complaint site may cause the negative content to rank even higher on google and other search engines

4.     Learn the internet defamation laws and how they apply to you as a blog owner so you don’t find yourself unnecessarily in the middle of a heated court case that does not even concern you



I realize this is a super long post. I apologize. I got carried away because this a subject that still causes me a great deal of anxiety.  I won't include the rest of what I have for today. I will leave you with a few tips and then when the A to Z challenge is over I will do a series of articles on this because it is important for everyone to protect their online reputation. There are ways you can arm yourself against future slam attacks. I will share all if it in my May, blog series on internet defamation and protecting your online reputation against haters, competitors, etc.

I will end with this tidbit of information:

Top three bullies who launch false, vicious and negative slam campaigns against innocent victims on the internet

       1.     Competitors for jobs
2.    Competitors for customers
3.     Competitors for love
Online anonymity empowers lonely troubled and spiteful attackers to say things they would never say in person. It allows an attacker to smear a victim (or even impersonate a victim) and then retreat into the shadows without any consequences for their actions.
I support free speech, but false, cruel, defamatory statements on the internet have nothing to do with promoting the “marketplace of ideas” envisioned by the drafters of the United States Constitution

Don't forget to check out the other entries in the A to Z blogging challenge




Click here for the bizarre story of a stalker who sues his victim for defamation of character

12 comments:

  1. Good advice. It's true that people seem to be a little quick to make ill-considered comments on the internet. I try to slow down and take a metaphorical deep breath before writing anything that could be construed as mean-spirited or even harsh.

    Your experience sounds really scary. Thanks for sharing it.

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  2. Very interesting and helpful post. I always try to be careful about what I write on my blog and Twitter. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Oh wow my dear. I'm so sorry you had to be on the receiving end of such a public battle you didn't deserve. I can't imagine having to deal with the emotional scars of something like that. I'm glad she apologized and it is behind you, but I can see how it affects everyone in a community that is so vocal online. Bloggers def. fit into that category and it's uber important we don't let our anger in the heat of the moment or in this person's case, our insecurities explode out in a blog post or comment section.

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  4. that is horrible! legal bs cant keep up with the sins of the internet!
    that must hav been awful! i'm so glad it worked out. i wanted to hear that she got arrested or charged or something more than a lame apology letter, which she prob only wrote because she got caught!

    what kind of person feels better for hurting others? sick & twisted. just happy it's in the past now.

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  5.  Thank you. There is a difference, I believe, in expressing an opinion in a comment that shows that you passionately disagree with the post and with fabricating cruel and spiteful lies that could destroy a person's business and personal reputation.

    Point well taken and thank you for visiting again.

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  6. It is a good idea and one that I really adhere to. Thanks for visiting.

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  7. Thanks Cassie Mae. It was a terrifying ordeal and I think about how differently I handled it now that I have children and I need to set an example and how I would have handled it years ago when I was a hot head. I suppose that means I have matured. Oh no.

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  8. Thanks Tara, It was a horrible ordeal so I really feel for anyone who goes through anything similar. The scary part is how careful you have to be when clearing up the mess these people cause because any little thing can trigger them and like you mentioned it is usually someone who is quite sick that does things like this.

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  9. Wow, unreal. I'm wondering why you can't just delete these comments, Melissa? It is your blog, after all. "Concerned," no one cares. We're here to read what Melissa has to say, not whatever nonsense you want to spew.

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  10. You could be eligible for a free $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.

    ReplyDelete

If you don't have anything nice to say ... then sit by me. Kidding. Please share your thoughts. I love comments. I dislike stalkers & trolls. If you want to ask me a direct question, please email me: sugarlaw13 at live dot com

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