Need a reminder about the dangers of gossiping online? Check out this recent Facebook defamation lawsuit out of North Carolina. A woman is out $500,000 for posting a nasty quip on the social networking site. What’s most striking about the case is that names were never used, but the court still slapped the defendant with a sizable fine.
The Incident: Facebook Gossip Leads To Facebook Defamation
It all came down to one sentence: “I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid.” That’s what a woman, whom we’ll call “Stella,” commented on Facebook about a co-worker, whom we’ll call “Beth.” Sadly, over twenty years ago, “Beth” lost one of her children in a terrible gun accident involving a neighbor’s child. Drunkenness was not a factor in the incident, and “Beth” wasn’t involved in the fatal catastrophe. But by the time the story had weaseled its way through a gossip swamp, certain people were under the mistaken impression that “Beth” had killed her own child, while drunk. Nevertheless, “Stella” posted the falsity on a public Facebook page.
Understandably outraged by the slight, “Beth” sued over the Facebook defamation — and ultimately, won. The court ordered “Stella” to pony up $500,000 — $250,000 in actual damages, and $250,000 in punitive damages.
U.S. Defamation Laws: The Basic Rules
Because of the First Amendment, United States defamation laws are the most defendant-friendly in the world. To win, plaintiffs must prove more than falsity; they must also convince a judge or jury that their respective defendants:
- Made a provably false statement of fact;
- Caused harm by making the statement; and
- Acted with, at the very least, reckless disregard for the truth; at most, actual malice.
Moreover, different standards apply to different claimants. Believe it or not, “famous” people have to meet a higher burden of proof than “private citizens” to win defamation lawsuits. You can read more about celebrity slander and libel standards, here.
Speak With A Facebook Defamation Lawyer
Are you caught in a Facebook defamation web? If you need help, we’ve got your back. For nearly a decade, our team has helped hundreds of individuals and businesses overcome social media defamation attacks. Sometimes all it takes is a lawyer to engage in preliminary negotiations to set a situation straight. Contact us today to learn more about your rights and legal options. Reclaiming your good name may not be as complicated as you think. Let’s talk.