Social media can be a great tool for communicating and sharing things with others. However, not everything shared via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram leads to healthy discourse or positive outcomes.
Many people take advantage of the perceived anonymity the internet offers and engage in disrespectful and verbally abusive behavior toward others. The infamous word “trolling” refers to extreme behavior where people hide behind computer screens to say inflammatory and offensive things about others.
The law does allow for civil consequences for those who engage in defamatory behavior both online and offline. However, defamation laws frequently run up against freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment. First Amendment rights often makes these cases difficult for plaintiffs to win.
In Georgia, defamation is considered a type of personal injury. You have the right to file a civil lawsuit if you believe you’ve suffered damage to your character due to lies said or published by someone else. However, succeeding in a libel or slander case is almost never easy.
What Is Defamation?
Georgia law defines defamation as making false statements about someone and communicating these statements to a third party, which harms a person’s reputation and causes damages, including loss of business, harassment and pain and suffering.
Defamation is generally divided into two categories:
- Slander: False statements made verbally
- Libel: False statements that are written or published (typically online or via other media channels)
What Is Internet Libel?
Internet libel refers to false and defamatory statements on the internet, usually published through channels like social media, blogs and websites. Internet libel can have devastating consequences for a person’s mental well-being, finances or even safety. Some of the harmful effects of internet libel include:
- Loss of business
- Financial losses
- Loss of marriage
- Loss of custody of children
- Difficulties finding employment
- Public contempt
- Social embarrassment and alienation
- Bullying and harassment
- Threats of violence or actual violence
Luckily, internet libel is typically much easier to prove than slander because of existing evidence. Even if the defendant deletes the damaging content, you or your attorney can work with website administrators or relevant companies to retrieve evidence.
How Can I Prove Defamation in Georgia?
Since suing for defamation is a civil matter, the burden of proving the case lies solely with the plaintiff. To prove you’ve been defamed, you’ll first have to establish the defendant made a false statement.
Negative statements are not automatically defamation. If someone accuses you of cheating on your spouse and you did, this isn’t a false statement and won’t count as defamation. You generally can’t sue someone for calling you a fascist or racist either, as in most contexts that’s considered an opinion of the speaker rather than an assertion of provable fact. Conversely, you could potentially sue a publication if they published a story claiming you attended a white nationalist rally when you can prove you did not.
You’ll have to prove the defendant communicated the false statement to a third party, such as your family, friends or via social media and that they either knew or should have known their actions would cause you harm.
Lastly, you’ll need to prove you’ve suffered actual harm and damages, unless the false statement is considered defamation per se.
What Is Defamation Per Se?
Defamation per say are false statements that are considered so damaging that you don’t need to prove they caused you harm or resulted in losses.
For instance, if a student falsely accuses their teacher of sexual misconduct and the teacher ends up losing their job and teaching license, the court won’t require them to prove damages, as they are self-explanatory.
If someone makes derogatory remarks online about someone’s lifestyle choices, parenting skills or mental health but it’s not obvious the plaintiff has suffered damages, their case won’t be considered defamation per se and they will have to produce sufficient evidence to prove their claim.
How to Prove Losses in a Defamation Case
Unless your case amounts to defamation per se, you’ll have to show a direct relationship between the false statements made against you and the losses you endured. You’ll have to show tangible evidence proving the defamation caused you to lose a business, a job, a marriage or suffer other devastating hardships.
Contact our Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys for Help with Personal Injury Cases
The Atlanta personal injury lawyers at the Dressie Law Firm generally help clients who have suffered physical injuries, like injuries from car crashes, truck accidents, slip and falls or medical malpractice.
While reputations are important, they’re generally not as important as the health, safety and financial stability of your family. Serious injuries can cost you more than just your good name, and our team will fight to ensure you receive fair compensation.
Call (678) 679-0569 for a free case evaluation.