Social Networking : Defamation 2
Q: While attending law school, I was involved in the administration of a website that served as an internet discussion board for the exchange of information on institutions of higher education. Pseudonymous visitors to the website began to post several sexually explicit messages about another student. When the student failed to cause the removal of these posts from the Internet, she hired a public relations agency specializing in online reputation management.
The agency’s own website then falsely created the impression that I was responsible for the offensive posts on the internet discussion board. Specifically, the agency’s website made comments such as the following, “Not only have the owners of the website allowed the ‘board’ to be used to harass and degrade women, they have actively shielded the harassers behind a veil of anonymity, and despite numerous pleas by the victims.”
The agency then developed a so-called “Petition to Clean Up the Board” and posted it on the agency’s website. This petition asks me personally to remove any and all references to women victimized and purposely misrepresented on the websites without their consent, implement an easy dispute resolution mechanism to address concerns about defamatory, hurtful and worthless commentary.
A: In asserting a defamation claim, you have the burden of proving the defamatory character of the agency’s web posting, its application to you, the understanding by site visitors of its defamatory meaning, their understanding of it as intended to be applied to you and the harm resulting to you from the publication of the posting. This harm should be more than mere embarrassment or annoyance. It should come close to a fracturing of your standing in the community of respectable society.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.
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