Slander on the internet

 


Ordinarily, a defamatory statement made on the internet will be pursued as libel, rather than slander. Although these two categories are usually considered similar for the purposes of the law, online there are certain differences that increase the relevance of the distinction.


Cyber slander

For a statement to be defamatory it must be untrue and it must damage another legal person’s reputation. Under new legislation it must also be shown to have caused substantial damage. A slanderous statement is distinct from a libellous one by the fact it was made in a transient form.

Offline this would include oral statements, gestures, or other unrecorded forms of communication.

Online slanderous statements are difficult to define. They certainly include vocal broadcasts through Skype or other services, but it is debatable whether statements made through chat-rooms or instant messaging services are sufficiently transient, since they are often recorded.

The indication from the courts has been that each case will be looked at individually, but as a rule, defamation that occurs in a medium usually used for casual conversations will be slanderous but that which occurs through blogs and message boards shall be considered libel.

Notably recent cases on of defamation Twitter have been considered libellous by the claimants.

What about the legal process?

In the offline world, pleading a case as slander or libel makes little difference to the process.

Online however there is a significant difference. The statutory limitation on bringing a defamation case is set at one year from the most recent date of publication. Online, the most recent date of publication is considered to be the last date at which someone accessed the offending material.

In the case of a slander claim however this would not apply. If the statement was transitory, such as through an instant message or a chat-room, it would probably not be considered to be re-published, even if someone were to have recorded it.

Therefore the timescale within which a claim may be brought in a case of online slander may be considerably shorter.

Libel and slander law are some of the most complex areas of the English legal system, you can learn more about it on our defamation pages. If you believe you may have a case, or someone is bringing a claim against you, you must seek legal advice as soon as possible.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on internet slander or libel, Contact Law can put you in touch with local specialist defamation solicitors free of charge. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above to speak to one of our advisors.

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