In today’s world, it seems everyone needs to be careful when talking about someone. People are sensitive to being categorized in certain ways; the names we used to use for groups of people are now offensive. When saying something about someone you need to make sure you have your facts straight. With social media everywhere, when you say something, it can be recorded forever. When posting a comment on a social media site, it is there forever. Times have changed, that verbal tyrant you had about someone 20 years ago has taken on a whole different tone today. I’m talking about defamation of character.
What is defamation of character? There are two categories for defamation of character; slander and libel. Slander is the verbal defamation of character and libel is the written defamation of character. Let’s take an example of Facebook. A former friend is upset that you are now dating her ex-boyfriend. She starts posting negative comments about your integrity, saying you are unfaithful in relationships and that you lie. She knows you have mutual connections on Facebook and those people will see the comments. Understandably, you are livid. Can you sue for defamation of character? You can if the statements are false. If an ex employer is upset that you left their employment and starts spreading rumors about your lack of work ethic and productivity, hoping to ruin your new job, can you sue for defamation of character? Absolutely, if the rumors are false.
That’s the thing about defamation of character, you can be upset if someone says something or writes something negative about you, but is it true? Another thing to consider, did the defamation result in a loss of some sort, like earnings? In the case of the ex-employer, if your new employer heard about the rumors and decided to skip over you for a big account or a raise, you certainly have suffered a financial loss. It would be advantageous to take the ex-employer to court to keep your reputation as accurate as possible.
When looking into whether you have been slandered or libeled, think about what you lost from the action and whether it was true. Just because having something unappealing about us is being talked about, if it is a fact, it is not defamation of character. You can be mad and upset, but not a winner in the court system.