Contrary to Popular Belief, Defamation on the Internet is Rarely a Legal Matter

Online Reputations can easily be hit by Mudslingers
The Internet has a long memory, as so do those photos and written musings you may want to post today. The stakes can be very high, and it’s all about your online reputation.

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – APRIL 25, 2018 – The Internet has a long memory, as so do those photos and written musings you may want to post today. “For a business owner or a person who presents themselves as a brand, as a freelancer might, how people perceive you online can make a big difference to your success and income,” says Tony Semadeni, owner of Business Checkup, a digital marketing agency in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The stakes can be very high, and it’s all about your online reputation. “All too often I’m approached by people complaining about how someone else is slandering them online and so they want to know what can be done. Their first thought is to sue the other person or website. My answers typically leave them more frustrated because – contrary to popular belief – mudslinging is not defamation.”

What is defamation, libel and slander?

Whether you are the victim of Internet defamation or being wrongfully accused of Internet defamation, you need to understand the law. In order for a comment, post or article to constitute Internet libel, the following elements must typically be met:

  1. The first thing you must prove is that the statement constitutes a false statement of fact. A fact is different than an opinion. A fact can be proven true or false. Opinions are typically not actionable as defamation.

  2. The false statement of fact must harm your reputation. There are many false statements posted across the internet. In order to constitute libel, a statement must not only be false but must harm you or your company’s reputation and cause harm.

  3. The false statement of fact causing harm must be made without adequate due diligence or research into the truthfulness of the statement. Alternatively, plaintiffs often attempt to prove that the false statement of fact was made with full knowledge of its falsity.

  4. If the person who is the subject of the false statement of fact is a celebrity or public official, the plaintiff must also prove “malice.” Malice is proven when the person posting the information on the internet intended to do harm or acted with reckless disregard of the truth in making the statements.

There is often confusion about the differences between defamation, libel and slander. In many ways, courts treat defamation on the Internet similar to off-line defamation. But there are differences which you need to understand when the false statements are made online.

Defamation: An unprivileged false statement of fact which tends to harm the reputation of a person or company. This is a catch-all term for both libel and slander.

Libel: Defamation which is written such as on a web site. Most online defamation occurs through libel by posting a web page, comment, bulletin board post, review, rating or blog post.

Slander: Defamation that is spoken such as through an transcribed video, podcast or audio file.

Understanding your legal stance is just the first step in defending your online reputation. “Since bringing suit against another person or website is not an option for many businesses, the simplest solution is to outsource defensive – and offensive – reputation work to other company, such as ours. The most effective way to protect your online reputation is to create a barrage of ongoing positive content that dominates Page 1 of any search, thereby protecting you with a barrier against negative content… keeping it suppressed and beyond the reach of those people searching out your name,” says Semadeni. “It’s time consuming work and something that most people just don’t want to do.”

Semadeni also offers a free download on How to Guard Your Online Reputation.


Since 2010, Business Checkup founder Tony Semadeni and his team has been committed to helping small business owners compete with the big companies and rise to the next level by providing outsourced advertising and digital marketing services tailored specifically to meet the needs of local “neighbor” businesses. 

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