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According to the New York State Bar Association, defamation is the act of making a false statement that exposes a plaintiff to ridicule, aversion, disgrace or public contempt in the minds of rational people. For a defamation claim to reach a court audience, the defendant must make a false statement. Then, the defendant must publish the statement without permission to a third party. Defamation, also, causes harm.

Often, people confuse whether opinions count as defamation. The defendant presents defamation as a fact. The court will look at defamation in the context of the communication. An opinion is something that cannot be proven true or false. A reasonable person will look at an opinion and easily understand that the person is expressing his or her beliefs.

With defamation, reasonable listeners or readers will view the statement as fact. The statement has meaning that most will take from it and in addition, the statement may hurt someone’s reputation. The audience believes the statement and in turn ridicules the plaintiff.

Social media introduced new legal concerns for those who suffered defamation. When you post on social media, your posts can count as defamation. When you post on a website, your words have the potential to reach thousands or millions of people over an indefinite time. This opens up the door to defamation lawsuits. When a person posts on social media, he or she may not consider the legality of what he or she says.

Nothing in this article is legal advice. Instead, previous information is for educational purposes to help you understand what defamation is.