False statements about your reputation can destroy it in the eyes of your community. If your reputation suffers from false statements, known as defamation, you may be able to file a lawsuit for damages.
To understand what constitutes defamation, there are four elements to consider.
Defamation must be a false statement of fact. Opinions and subjective expressions do not count, but ideas conveyed as an objective truth do. Opinions fall under protected speech, but stating falsehoods that could potentially harm another person is defamation.
Defamation cannot simply include private conversations or personal thoughts. The false statement has to reach a third party beyond the originator and the subject. Publishing the statement broadens its impact and amplifies the potential harm it can cause to the subject’s reputation within the community or social circles.
Keep in mind that posts on social media are not private conversations. There are over 4.8 billion users on social media. When users post defamatory statements to their followers, it may constitute publication to a third party.
In some contexts, statements do not qualify as defamation, even if the affected person claims the statements are false. Privileged statements are statements that occur in legislative forums and legal proceedings. Essentially, these statements remain protected to encourage open discourse during legal proceedings.
For a defamation case to succeed, there has to be tangible harm where the subject suffers because of the false statements. Damage can manifest in different forms, including reputational harm, emotional distress or financial loss.
It is important to remember that when it comes to defamation, writing and verbal communication count.