Defamation, Libel & Slander

Posts: 1351
Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:08 pm

Far too often websites forums will "shoot first, ask questions later" when it comes to complaints about posts on their forums. Forums take this stance in an effort to "keep the peace" and avoid any hassles or "legal trouble." in an effort to inform our readers and posters has decided to take a look at what actually constitutes Defamation, Libel and Slander.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ... expression

Defamation: refers to harming another person's reputation by making a false written or oral statement about that person to a third party.

Libel: defamation with a permanent record, such as an email, a radio or TV broadcast, a newspaper, a website posting.

Slander: defamation with no permanent record, such as a spoken statement or even a hand gesture.

Lets consider the above definitions and what they mean to someone posting on internet forums such as this site.

In broad strokes you should consider everything you post online to be the same as making a written statement, and that it will be viewed by a third party.

Thus what you post could constitute Libel since its a permanent record. 

Obviously writing something negative in a post doesn't automatically constitute a defamatory statement that could land you in legal trouble. Here in Canada we have freedom of expression, and you are allowed to speak your mind freely. However there are limitations to this

Tort law surrounding defamation law does not directly curb your right to free expression; it is not illegal per se. Rather, defamation is generally about paying damages to people that have been harmed by your speech. You can still say whatever you want, but you may have to pay for it (and you may have to pay a lot).

There are a number of legal defenses against defamation:

1. You can claim that the statement was true; a true statement cannot be defamatory.

2. You can claim absolute privilege, which means that the communication was made in a venue where people ought to have absolute privilege to speak freely; this includes Parliament or giving evidence in a trial.

3. You can claim qualified privilege, which means that the communication was given in a non-malicious and well-intentioned context and therefore ought to be excused: for example, giving an honest but negative reference for a former employee.

4. You can claim fair comment, which means that your statement was a non-malicious opinion about a matter of public interest: for example, an editorial in a newspaper about a politician.

5. You can claim responsible communication on matters of public importance, which allows journalists to report false allegations if the news is urgent and of public importance, and if the journalist made an effort to verify the information. Even if the statement is false, the public has an interest in this type of discussion being legally permissible.
Keep your posts to true statements and make your fair comments.

As always if you find material you think violates any of the above please contact the poster and/or