Can You Sue for Defamation of Character on Facebook?

Can You Sue for Defamation of Character on Facebook?

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Can You Sue for Defamation of Character on Facebook?

What was once a way to stay connected with friends and family members has morphed into a highly influential website for businesses to promote their products and services. We are talking about the social media site that revolutionized how we interact online. Facebook remains one of the most popular platforms for users of all ages, but one important question has arisen in recent years that involves a legal principle.

Can you sue for defamation of character on Facebook? The answer is yes, but you have to prove the elements that define defamation of character.

Defamation of character in any form can irrevocably destroy the personal and/or professional reputation of another person. On Facebook, it can happen when a visitor leaves a comment concerning a post, as well as within the content of an article that a Facebook host has uploaded for public view. Facebook also provides users with a status update feature that offers the opportunity for someone to leave a defamatory statement.

If you believe you are a victim of defamation on Facebook, you should contact one of the experienced attorneys at Morgan & Morgan. Because the Internet is still a relatively new platform for interacting with other people, the laws defining defamation of character online constantly change. This means that what was defamation of character two years ago might not be defined as such in 2022. One of our defamation lawyers will determine whether you have a strong enough case to move forward with legal action.

Act with a sense of urgency by scheduling a free case evaluation with one of the accomplished litigators at Morgan & Morgan.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

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  • What Is Defamation of Character?

    Before you answer the question, “Can you sue for defamation of character on Facebook,” you should understand the definition of the legal principle.

    Defamation of character is a broad legal term for any form of communication that hurts the reputation of another person or organization. Slander is defamation of character done verbally, while libel is the printed version of the legal principle. In the case of a defamatory statement left on Facebook, the law regarding libel applies to the defamatory statement.

    One of the difficulties of winning a defamation of character lawsuit concerns the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Americans have the right to free speech, which means the person who defamed you might lean on the legal protection granted by the First Amendment to defend any statements made on Facebook.

    Of the two types of defamation, libel is the easier of the two to prove because a written statement represents physical evidence. However, libel on Facebook can be difficult to prove if the person accused of defamation of character eventually deletes a damaging comment or statement and removes any evidence that leaves a digital footprint. If you are a victim of defamation on Facebook, you need to act quickly to prevent the loss of digital evidence.

  • Who Do I Sue for Defamation of Character on Facebook?

    Plaintiffs that have to deal with online defamation of character typically want to take legal action against the Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the website that allows the defamatory content to be posted. That brings us to an important question: Can you sue for defamation of character on Facebook by suing Facebook?

    The answer is no because in the United States, plaintiffs cannot sue an ISP or a website for defamation of character. In 1996, at the start of the Internet’s history, the United States Congress passed the Communications Decency Act that protects social media platforms such as Facebook against defamation of character lawsuits. Federal law does not permit a social media platform to be labeled the publisher of defamatory content. Plaintiffs must take legal action for defamation of character against the person or organization that made a defamatory statement.

  • What Are the Elements of Defamation on Facebook?

    Although defamation of character laws slightly vary among the 50 states, every state requires proof of four elements that define a defamatory statement.

    False Statement

    Without proving the first element, you cannot expect to win a civil lawsuit that involves defamation of character. The statement made by the other party has to be false and the burden of proof for establishing the defendant made a false statement lies with the plaintiff. Working with one of the defamation of character attorneys from Morgan & Morgan can help you establish that the other party made a false statement about you.

    Statement of Fact

    The false statement made by the defendant also must be factual, not a statement based on opinion. For example, uploading a comment on Facebook that reads “I think my boss does a bad job” is a statement based on an opinion. The lawyer you work with from Morgan & Morgan might be able to prove that an opinion issued by the defendant should be considered a factual statement if a reasonable person would interpret the statement as factual.

    Must Be Published

    Before the rise in the popularity of the Internet, published meant a defamatory statement was made in a printed publication, such as a newspaper or magazine. For a defamatory statement made online on a site like Facebook, your legal counsel must prove the defendant published the defamatory statement. Because of the ease of deleting posts and comments on Facebook, you should take a screenshot of every defamatory post and comment about you the defendant uploaded to Facebook. Your attorney also can interview witnesses that read the published defamatory post or comment. 

    Damaged Your Reputation

    The last element determines whether you qualify for injunctive relief and/or monetary damages. Your lawyer must demonstrate the defamatory statements made against you damaged your reputation. The damage to your reputation must be documented, significant, and quantifiable. For example, if someone defamed your business by leaving a Facebook comment, you might be able to show the defamatory statement contributed to a decrease in sales. You have the right to recover the financial losses caused by a defamatory post or comment uploaded to Facebook. 

  • How Do I Sue for Defamation of Character on Facebook?

    As we mentioned, acting with a sense of urgency is the key to winning a defamation of character lawsuit. Visitors to a Facebook page can delete posts and comments as quickly as they upload them. Although taking screenshots and relying on witnesses can help you build a persuasive case, you should act quickly to prevent a defamatory post or comment on Facebook from destroying your personal and/or professional reputation.

    First, you have to show the content left about you on Facebook meets the legal standards for defining libel. You also might be able to prove someone slandered you if you discovered a defamatory statement made about you in a video. Second, you have to prove at least one person saw the content. The person does not have to be you, but it helps if you can provide evidence of the defamatory statement in question. Finally, you have to show the defamatory statement caused you substantial harm. 

    Defamation of character civil lawsuits present unique challenges, which means hiring an experienced attorney who has won cases that concern defamation on Facebook might help you win your case.

  • Why Should I Partner With a Defamation of Character Attorney?

    The first reason why you should hire a state-licensed defamation of character lawyer is to learn the answer to the question, “Can you sue for defamation of character on Facebook?” During the free case evaluation, the attorney from Morgan & Morgan sitting across from you will spend about an hour reviewing your case to determine the best course of legal action.

    Gather and Organize Evidence

    Facebook manages a vast server network that stores information your lawyer might be able to access if your defamation of character case goes to trial. Your legal counsel also can access physical evidence such as screenshots and the posts/comments left on Facebook that have damaged your personal and/or professional reputation.

    Evidence also includes the statements made by the witnesses that read the defamatory post or comment. Witness accounts provide support for the physical evidence collected and organized by your defamation of character attorney.

    Calculate a Value for Monetary Damages

    Unlike an employment or personal injury case, calculating a value for the monetary damages associated with a defamation of character case can be difficult to do. Placing a value on your personal and/or professional reputation requires a considerable amount of research into your career and personal life. For example, how do you calculate the value of a broken marriage caused by a defamatory remark?

    Negotiate a Favorable Settlement

    After calculating a reasonable value for monetary damages, your legal counsel might try to negotiate a settlement to avoid a costly and time-consuming civil trial. Negotiations start when your lawyer makes the initial offer, which the other party can outright reject or amend by making a counteroffer. A series of counteroffers follow until either both sides reach a settlement or decide to take the case to trial. Legal settlements occur most often during the discovery phase of the civil litigation process, which is the point when both sides meet to exchange evidence.

    File a Civil Lawsuit Before the Deadline Set By Your State

    You have a limited amount of time to file a defamation of character lawsuit. Each state has established a statute of limitations, which typically runs between two and four years, depending on where you live. However, you should not wait until the deadline approaches to file a civil lawsuit. Act with a sense of urgency to ensure every witness provides the most accurate account of the defamatory statements made by another party.

    Provides Legal Support During a Trial

    If your case goes to trial, your defamation of character attorney provides support by preparing you to testify, as well as argue your case in front of a civil court judge. Your lawyer presents a persuasive case that includes overwhelming evidence and the statements made by witnesses that boost your credibility.

  • Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

    Can you sue for defamation of character on Facebook? The answer is yes, but you have to meet each of the four legal elements that define defamation of character. Your lawyer also has to present convincing evidence not only that the defendant made defamatory statements on Facebook but also that the statement has damaged your personal and/or professional reputation.

    Schedule a free case evaluation to learn more about suing for defamation of character.

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