The Small Business Guide to Understanding Libel, Slander, and Defamation - Purple Fox Legal

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The Small Business Guide to Understanding Libel, Slander, and Defamation

By Purple Fox Legal

May 25, 2022

While the First Amendment of the Constitution protects the right to free speech, it does not grant you the permission to say anything about anyone. All Constitutional rights are limited. The First Amendment is limited because words possess the ability to seriously harm someone’s image and reputation. And, when it comes to spreading false truths about another individual, there is a high probability that the law may get involved. 

In this article, the legalities surrounding defamation, libel, and slander, and the differences between them are explored. The necessary elements of a defamation lawsuit will be discussed along with a recent case in the news. This article will help you understand defamation, libel, and slander so you can keep yourself protected. 

What is the Difference Between Libel, Slander, and Defamation?

In the eyes of the law, the act of spreading a false statement about someone in an effort to damage their character can be classified as defamation. It is a broad term that covers harmful speech conducted intentionally (not shared as an opinion), and it encompasses both libel and slander. A person guilty of defamation can also be found guilty of both libel and slander. 

Libel is a type of defamatory statement made in writing, while slander is spread orally. 


Understanding the Elements of a Defamation Lawsuit

The most important thing to remember about defamation is that it’s done intentionally. There is an element of intended harm, and this is why the term doesn’t cover statements of opinion. The First Amendment protects personal expression, however, it’s important to find a balance between the two. So, when it comes to establishing a defamation lawsuit, there are some requirements in place. 

The mandatory elements of a defamation lawsuit include:

  1. A false statement was shared as a fact
  1. The statement was published or shared with at least one third party
  1. The statement resulted in some harm to the plaintiff’s reputation

The purpose of a defamation lawsuit is to gain monetary repayment for the harm caused by an untrue and malicious rumor. This harm could be anything from lost wages to altered public opinion. There is always some “pain and suffering” aspect to a defamation claim.

The Cardi B. Defamation Lawsuit

Defamation, libel, and slander made headlines earlier this year when rapper Cardi B. won a $1.5 million lawsuit against a popular YouTuber. The defamation lawsuit included more than 20 different videos, which were all uploaded as part of a campaign to “damage and destroy” Cardi B’s reputation. 

Without any evidence, the YouTuber, who goes by Tasha K., published multiple false statements on her channel. These statements included the claim that Cardi B. was a cocaine user, a prostitute, and a carrier of herpes. They were intended to cause character harm and emotional distress, which is exactly why Cardi B. won the suit. Now, Tasha K. must remove all 21 videos and pay more than $1 million in damages. 

Protecting Yourself from a Defamation Lawsuit

Content creators and public online figures should remain conscious of the possibility of falling into the defamation trap. It’s easier than one might believe to accidentally share “fake news” online and cause irreparable damage to someone’s character. The best way to avoid accidental defamation is to do your research, stick to your own opinions, and avoid speaking negatively about someone else, especially in public. 

If you still have questions about defamation, libel, or slander, it’s best to talk to an attorney on the subject.