Online Internet defamation

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Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published, whether true or false, depending on legal state. In common law it is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).

In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false, [not specific enough to verify] and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. “Unlike [with] libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy.”

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False light laws are “intended primarily to protect the plaintiff’s mental or emotional well-being.” If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading, then a tort of false light might have occurred.

In some civil law jurisdictions, defamation is dealt with as a crime rather than a civil wrong (termed a public-law delict in civil-law systems). The United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled in 2012 that the criminalization of libel violates Freedom of expression and is inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A person who harms another’s reputation may be referred to as a “famacide”, “defamer”, or “slanderer”. The Latin phrase famosus libellus means a libelous writing.

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