Social media is a big part of modern life, and some people feel more connected and emotionally invested in their online communities than they do in their own neighborhoods.
That can make it particularly distressing, then, when someone posts things on social media about you that are untrue and damaging to your reputation. It can also be legally actionable if those posts rise to the level of defamation.
What is social media defamation?
Social media defamation is a type of libel, where one party makes a damaging and untrue statement of fact (as opposed to an opinion) about another party and publishes it on any social website or platform where it is seen by others. It could be a tweet, altered photos and videos, comments on other people’s posts or community boards or anything similar.
What can you do about it?
Generally, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act prevents you from suing the social media platform(s) involved in your situation for allowing such defamatory statements to be spread around. Under the law, each person is largely responsible for their own actions.
People can and do sue individuals for defamation in response to social media posts, however. For example, in 2017, a woman had to pay $500,000 after she made a Facebook post that implied a former rival was responsible for their child’s death in a drunk-driving wreck – something that was completely false.
If you believe that you’re the victim of social media defamation, here are some immediate steps to take:
- Do not respond. If you end up proceeding with a claim against your defamer, you need to “have clean hands” to avoid muddying the legal waters.
- Take screenshots, download pictures and videos and save everything. You don’t want to let your defamer backtrack by removing their posts.
The right legal guidance can help you then find the most appropriate way to deal with the problem and restore your good name. That may include cease-and-desist letters, requests to social platforms to remove the content and a civil claim for the damages you’ve suffered.