Poll: Majority Wants Repercussions for Online Defamation
According to a May 10 poll by cayCompass, 54 percent of respondents believe that social media and web forum postings should be held to the same libel standards as traditional media outlets.
“It should be much easier to take action or have a press complaints body to complain to against some of the libelous and slanderous comments posted on some of these forums, including the media,” said one respondent. “Your newspaper used to do a good job of moderating such comments, but of late it has gone the route of its competitors.”
Users who unfairly defame individuals or businesses on the Internet could face expensive legal repercussions. That may include publishing blatant lies about a person or organization through your Facebook or Twitter accounts.
The perceived anonymity of the internet has historically motivated competitors to spread false rumors against rivals or to harass others. However, libelous accusations can now be easily tracked down and legal action can be taken in court.
Earlier this week, a Canadian bishop filed a lawsuit against a blogger who published injurious comments to his “credit, character, and reputation”. In April, a Texas couple was awarded over $13 million in a defamation case they made against an individual who harassed them online through multiple false accusations on web forums.
While the U.S. constitution protects the right to free speech (which covers opinions), blatant lies that result in damages are not. Through the use of technology, the nation’s court system can now trace offending parties by tracking their IP addresses which each of which is tied to a specific computer.
What makes the Internet unique is its ability to spread information seemingly at the speed of light. Additionally, software technology can disguise the source of the information however accurate or inaccurate.
Individuals and companies are not immune to anonymous defamation. Motivated aggressors can use software to hide their digital footprints and thus continue to spread false information on their targets. Misleading information and blatant lies that go viral can result in gains or losses for investors.Continued on the next page