Can You Sue for Defamation of Character on Twitter?

Can You Sue for Defamation of Character on Twitter?

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Can You Sue for Defamation of Character on Twitter?

In 280 or fewer characters, a Twitter user can destroy your career, disrupt your marriage, or derail your education. As one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, Twitter provides users with several benefits, including real-time updates on business specials and news reports that have global implications. Twitter also can be the source of a defamatory comment that negatively impacts your personal and/or personal life. If you follow online news sources, you should see plenty of stories that include several tweets embedded into the content.

Once in a while, the sources contain defamatory content.

Since the opening of the Internet to the public, government regulators at all levels have played catch-up with the passage of laws that prohibit defamation of character. Without a specific law that addresses defamatory comments on social media platforms, can you sue for defamation of character on Twitter?
The answer is yes, but you should work closely with an experienced defamation attorney who knows how to help clients recover from defamatory comments made about them online.

At Morgan & Morgan, our team of highly-rated defamation lawyers helps clients not only recover from the damages caused by defamatory comments, but we also work hard to ensure the guilty party never defames another person ever again. We understand how malicious lies can permanently ruin the personal and/or professional reputation of someone who has worked long and hard to establish a character that is defined by honesty and integrity.

Facing the negative consequences of one or more defamatory statements means you must be proactive and schedule a free case evaluation with one of the skilled 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.

  • How Does the Law Define Defamation of Character?

    Defamation of character represents an oral or written statement that damages the reputation of an organization or another person. Slander is the act of verbally defaming another person or organization, while written defamatory statements define the legal principle called libel. If you want to sue another party for making a defamatory written statement on a social media platform such as Twitter, you file a civil lawsuit for libel.

    Litigating a defamation case is difficult, especially when the case involves one or more acts of slander. For slander cases, proof of defamation frequently comes down to the word of one party against the word of a second party. With a libel case, written words typically have staying power, which means a plaintiff can present physical evidence of libelous statements. However, a libel case involving a social media platform such as Twitter is more difficult to prove because a defendant has the ability to delete a defaming tweet before the plaintiff gathers and organizes the digital evidence.

    Another potential roadblock with a defamation of character case concerns the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. For either a libel or slander lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorney must demonstrate the lawsuit does not violate the defendant’s right to free speech. To get over this legal hurdle, your defamation of character lawyer must prove the elements of defamation exist.

  • Can I Sue Twitter for Defamation of Character?

    One of the problems with litigating a defamation of character case is the plaintiff cannot sue a social media company, In 1996, the United States Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media platforms such as Twitter from becoming defendants in defamation of character cases. Plaintiffs cannot file a defamation of character lawsuit against a website or an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

    The 1996 federal law intended to establish a company like Twitter is not responsible for publishing defamatory content. Instead of suing a company that has much more cash than an individual, plaintiffs must file civil lawsuits against the individual or organization that uploaded the libelous content to the Twitter platform.

    Can you sue for defamation of character on Twitter? The answer is yes, but federal law prohibits you from filing a lawsuit against Twitter.

  • When Does Content on Twitter Become Defamatory?

    One important point to make about defamation of character on Twitter: An offensive tweet does not define a defamatory tweet. Remember the legal foundation for proving defamation of character requires your attorney to show a tweet or another form of content on Twitter has damaged your personal and/or professional reputation.

    Common types of defamatory content on Twitter include false tweets, retweets, and comments, as well as the establishment of fake accounts and profiles. Since Twitter provides users with a platform to upload video content, a video can contain defamatory information that damages your personal and/or professional reputations.

    Let’s review the four elements that answer the question, “Can you sue for defamation of character on Twitter?”

    False Statement

    The other party must have written a false statement about you for the statement to be considered defamatory. A negative truthful statement does not constitute defamation of character. One of the many reasons why you should hire an experienced defamation of character attorney is to determine whether the other party uploaded a false statement to the Twitter platform.

    A Third Party Read the False Statement

    The second element is usually the easiest element to prove simply because of the number of followers the average user has on the Twitter platform. Just one comment or retweet proves that at least one other person read the false content. You must capture a screenshot of the defamatory content read by at least one other person before the person who uploaded the defamatory content deletes it.

    The Defamer Committed Negligence

    Demonstrating negligence for a defamation of character case is different and often more difficult to do than proving negligence for a personal injury case. The law defines negligence for a defamation of character case as a lack of determining whether a statement made is true or false. For example, someone uploads a tweet that accuses you of cheating on your romantic partner. If the person responsible for uploading the tweet did not confirm the accuracy of the statement, then the person has committed an act of negligence.

    Damaged Your Reputation

    The last element of proving defamation of character is to show the judge hearing your case how the defamatory content damaged your personal and/or professional reputation. For example, if a false statement uploaded to Twitter caused you to lose your job, you can demonstrate the Twitter content damaged your career.

    Proving a defamatory statement uploaded to Twitter has damaged your reputation is the key to winning a legal judgment that includes the awarding of monetary damages.

  • What Should I Avoid Doing in Response to a Defamatory Statement on Twitter?

    When you discover you have become a victim of defamation of character, the initial reaction might be to lash out at the person or organization that made the defamatory statement. You must resist the urge to get even because firing back with a defamatory statement of your own can prevent you from filing a defamation of character lawsuit.

    Follow three tips that help you avoid making a mistake when addressing the defamatory content uploaded to Twitter.

    Do Not Respond With a Public Statement

    Even if you respond to a defamatory statement using a balanced approach, you have stepped into a trap the other party can exploit. Responding to a defamatory comment on Twitter not only gives the other party the attention the other party craves, but it also significantly reduces the credibility of your case. Keep your thoughts private by sharing them with the defamation lawyer you hired from Morgan & Morgan.

    Do Not Try to Hide or Remove the Defamatory Content

    Although Twitter has become much more assertive when it comes to hiding or removing misinformation, you do not want the social media platform to hide or remove the defamatory content made against you. Instead, take screenshots and save tweets to gather the evidence you need to build a persuasive civil lawsuit for defamation of character.

    Do Not Threaten Legal Action

    Do not send a cease and desist letter unless your attorney recommends it and your legal counsel crafts the cease and desist letter. If you write and send a cease and desist letter, you run the risk of sending emotionally-driven content that can hurt your case. Once you agree to take legal action against the other party, allow your defamation lawyer to handle the remaining steps required to win a favorable legal judgment.

  • What Are the Damages Awarded for a Defamation of Character Lawsuit?

    The goal of your defamation of character attorney is for you to recover the losses generated by one or more defamatory statements uploaded to Twitter.

    Monetary Damages

    You can ask the court for three types of monetary damages. Economic damages cover the cost of expenses such as lost wages and medical bills. The damage done by a defamatory statement can cause physical issues such as a rapid and dangerous increase in blood pressure, as well as frequent migraine headaches that make it impossible to hold down a steady job.

    The judge hearing your defamation of character case also can award you non-economic damages, which are a frequent type of monetary damages awarded for defamation of character cases. Non-economic damages do not come with a price tag. Instead, non-economic damages cover things like mental anguish and emotional distress. For example, dealing with defamatory comments can lead to the development of depression symptoms.

    The last type of monetary damages punishes the defendant for making false and damaging statements about you. Punitive damages do not pay for the cost of anything, but they can be substantial enough for you to recover from the financial losses that result from defamatory comments.

    Injunctive Relief

    Injunctive relief represents a legal maneuver that modifies the behavior of the defendant. For a defamation of character case, your attorney might ask the judge hearing your case to require the plaintiff to complete a sensitivity class or refrain from uploading content to twitter indefinitely. Injunctive relief accomplishes two goals. First, it prevents the same type of illegal conduct to happen again and it teaches the defendant about how a defamatory comment can damage the personal and/or professional reputation of another party.

  • Take Action Today

    You cannot allow defamatory statements to slow down your career, take apart your marriage, or limit your educational opportunities. Filing a civil lawsuit for defamation of character requires you to act before the state-imposed deadline. Most states have set the statute of limitations for the filing of a defamation of character civil lawsuit between two and four years.

    Take action today by scheduling a free case evaluation with one of the experienced libel attorneys at Morgan & Morgan.

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