Social media has taken over the world in many ways. The number of people who use Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms is astounding. What many people don’t realize is that what is posted on these platforms can have permanent consequences — for the poster and the person they are posting about. Making false claims about a person that damages their reputation is something that you could be sued for, or that you could sue someone else for. If you find yourself in either position, it’s wise to contact an experienced law firm as soon as possible. Off-the-cuff statements, comments, and videos that are posted on Facebook can end up having long-lasting and devastating consequences for people and businesses. Make sure you know what to do to pursue a claim or defend yourself from one. Morgan & Morgan has been handling these types of claims for decades. Our attorneys are well-versed in claims that arise out of social media, and we would be happy to assist you. Contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free consultation.
What Is Slander?
Slander is a form of defamation in which someone attempts to harm or damage your reputation by making false statements regarding you. To be guilty of slander, the accused must have made these statements orally, such as through making false statements on the radio or TV, making false claims in a Facebook livestream or posted video, or spreading untrue claims about a person at work.
How to Prove Slander?
To prove that someone has slandered you (or for them to prove that you slandered them), the following elements must be proven:
- Identification. One of the first elements of a slander case that must be proven is that the plaintiff was in fact identified in the slanderous comment. They must be able to show that the comment was “of and concerning” himself. It’s important to note that for a comment to be slanderous, it’s not a requirement that it specifically mentions the plaintiff by name. It’s enough if the plaintiff is reasonably identifiable by the information shared.
- Publication. The next element is that the slanderous statement must have been disseminated to a third party. This simply means that a third party must have heard the comments. If someone posts a video but no one saw the video, there’s no way for them to be found guilty of slander because this element cannot be met (assuming it was clear that no one had seen the video).
- Defamatory. Next, the plaintiff must prove that the statement made was in fact defamatory. This means the comments must have done more than just annoy or hurt the plaintiff’s feelings; they must have a defamatory meaning and therefore damage the plaintiff’s reputation. Typically, a defamatory statement is defined as one that an ordinary person would find damaging to their own reputation.
- Statement of Fact Is False. Next, the plaintiff must prove that the statement of fact made by the defendant was false and can be objectively verified as being false.
- Damages. Finally, the plaintiff must show that the defamatory statements actually caused them harm and they suffered damages. Damages can be anything that the plaintiff lost or incurred as a direct result of the slanderous comments. Examples of damages include lost wages, lost earning capacity, lost business opportunities, and any other economic losses the plaintiff was subjected to as a result. This might also include having to spend money to try to repair their reputation and gain back business opportunities. Additionally, if a plaintiff is successful in a slander lawsuit, they can recover monetary compensation for emotional distress and reputational harm as well.
Defamation/Slander Per Se
In most states, a defendant can be found guilty of defamation or slander per se. This means that the statements made were so clearly defamatory that no actual evidence of damages is required. This doesn’t mean evidence of damages shouldn’t be presented, but a case can be won without this evidence. The following statements are typically referred to as defamation or slander per se:
- Comments alleging the plaintiff committed a crime;
- Statements alleging the plaintiff has some type of “loathsome” disease, such as a sexually transmitted disease;
- A statement claiming the plaintiff is unchaste or engaged in sexual misconduct; and
- Statements claiming the plaintiff committed professional misconduct.
In these situations, reputational harm is automatically assumed, and it’s easy to see why. These are very extreme examples, though. Slander cases can be brought in many different circumstances, even when the grounds might be slightly less obvious.