What is Online Defamation?

The publication or broadcast of any libelous or slanderous statement about an individual or business that can be proven to be false and published with the intention of harming that entity’s reputation is considered to be defamation.

Online defamation is the publication of such statements made on any Internet based media including blogs, forums, websites, and even social networking websites. Said in simple words, online defamation is the publication of defamatory statements on the internet. Typically, these defamatory comments would appear in a social network environment (Facebook or Twitter) or on a website, blog or online forum.

Defamation and its rise on Internet

While defamation, in the form of slanderous and libelous comments, has been around since many decades, the problem has been exacerbated by the advance of the Internet as a reporting and social tool. While comments made in newspapers and even on the TV have a limited shelf life, those made on the Internet can remain on the website where they were first added as well as on other blogs and websites and even in the cache of search engines for many more years.

The Internet has had a massive impact on many areas of personal and professional life. Defamation laws and libel lawsuits are one such area and many individuals, businesses, and website owners have fallen foul of the belief that they can write anything about anybody when they are online. In light of the increase in libelous comments governments, judges, and courts around the world have extended laws and regulations to include comments made online as well as in other more traditional forms of media.

The offence of cyber defamation can be committed through the following medium:-

(a) World Wide Web

(b) Discussion groups

(c) Intranets

(d) Mailing lists and bulletin boards

(e) E-mail

There are two broad category of cases falling under cyber defamation:

·   The first category involves the cases in which the liability is of the primary publishers of the defamatory material, e.g. web site content providers, email authors etc;

·   The second category is of the cases involving the liability of the internet service providers or bulletin board operators.


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