Select Page

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to free speech. However, it does not protect words or speech that violate the rights of others. Defamation is one of several examples of speech that the First Amendment does not protect because of its potential to cause unnecessary harm. With defamation, the potential for harm comes not from a threat of physical violence but because of damage to one’s reputation, which is sometimes irreparable.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, when someone makes an untrue statement to hurt someone else’s reputation, it is a case of defamation. Slander and libel are the two different types. Even though many people get the two confused, there is a basic distinction between the two of them.

Slander

Slander is a defamatory statement spoken out loud to a third party. The words “scandal” and “slander” come from the same Latin root word, “scandalum,” which literally means “stumbling block” but can also mean “offense.”

According to G2, what distinguishes slander is that it takes place in an intangible form. If someone were to communicate a damaging and false story verbally to another person, that would be an example of slander. Another example would be a false television or radio news report. Spoken words are still intangible even when recorded.

Libel

Libel occurs when someone publishes false information in a tangible medium, such as in a newspaper or a magazine. “Libel” derives from the Latin “liber,” meaning “book.” A written untruth, whether handwritten or printed, would count as libel, but it is also possible to commit libel by publishing pictures that communicate an untruth, e.g., doctored photographs.