The internet has been among us for quite some time, and its effects are now highly evident. Apart from being the catalyst for making the world a global village, it is also an excellent option for a world-spanning marketplace. Gone are those days when someone would need to write to a shop or company registered overseas for some products, their catalogs, and bargain about the prices. Most importantly, one can now link their offices over several countries and run them with the help of this important technological invention.
On the other hand, the reach and anonymity a section of people maliciously use this platform offer – often with a massive superiority complex but no available bravado and effort to back their claims. Irrespective of their psychological stimulus, they often use the internet (specifically social media platforms) to spread lies and hate-filled messages against a person, company, or community. Often these untruths upheave someone’s life to an extent where they get mentally broken and take severe steps like suicide. With the increasing reach of social media, cases of cyber defamation are also on the rise.
The legal types of defamation
Defamation occurs when someone speaks or writes untruths that can damage the social reputation and standing of an individual, institution, or business. In legal terms, this occurrence can fall into two parts – if the committer of cyber defamation states something verbally, it is slander. In contrast, the presence of written falsifications falls under the term ‘libel.’ Incidentally, defaming someone online differs from ‘cyber bullying’ or ‘online harassment.’ Defamation, if proven, can generate financial compensation; but cyber-harassment or online bullying cases can cause jail time as penalties.
The prevalence of defamation cases is most observed in the case of celebrities and public figures. However, it is often not the case for the general public. Cases, where cyber molestation has claimed the lives of innocent students, were present even in 2014. In this light, many experts are thinking aloud about cyber defamation laws.
The need for legal overwatch
The country’s legal structure depicts the publication of written material, spoken statements, and photographs clicked that harm the reputation of someone by its content and will face defamation cases. The plaintiff has to prove that the comments made by the accused have damaged their reputation in some way – that is, the material presented by the perpetrator has one or more untrue ‘imputations.’ Imputations consist of hostile and fictitious claims about a person or their behavior, e.g., stating lies about the health code situation of a restaurant. In many cases, businesses have now started keeping track of the things said or written about them on social media. Even in 2011, a consumer posted their frustration about the unsatisfactory services of a famous telecom service provider on social media – and got a legal notice served against them. Although the plaintiff backed off after media attention came upon the story, it shows that companies have started exploring options for handling false accusations. So, unless they have strong evidence or firm footing, it is best to restrain one’s expressions.
In the examples, big corporations or businesses had the money and people’s power to go against such accusers. However, when it is a general public or a tiny enterprise – the added legal costs of Defamation lawyers may become unnecessary for them. Moreover, they cannot claim compensation for any online slander or libel in the following situations:
- The defendant demonstrated that what they distributed was substantively accurate.
- The suspect subscribes to the right of expressing their candid judgment instead of making a statement of fact.
- The perpetrator was harmlessly dealing out offensive material, for example, where they are employees of a competing business or individuals paid to post offensive materials.
Seasoned internet users often report it as the last place of free speech and action. However, it is also becoming the haven for commenters without any social responsibility and lots of free time – so some measures to stop people from committing a ‘tweet and run’ need to be implemented.
Voluntary surrender of free speech?
The opposite opinion-holders (for a standardized anti-defamation law on the internet) most commonly argue for exercising their right to express themselves freely. Social media or the internet gets accused of spreading ‘fake news.’ Still, it is also a powerful tool to inform and unite people over important issues. The ‘#metoo movement’ instances are good examples, which can cause headaches for authoritarian governments or federal bodies with a dictator mentality.
Putting forward defamation laws will create inhuman examples of how to handle false accusations against a government body. Already, state intervention in internet access has created fragmentation among the users and a decline in human rights among the users as follows:
- Limitations on the course of news and information.
- National state control over internet arrangement
- Obstructions to cross-border transfers of user data.
According to trusted sources, authorities in 47 countries have limited users’ access to information sources outside their borders. These restrictions violate the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which gives every person the right to “pursue, obtain, and impart information and idea through any media and regardless of boundaries.” Often, usurping and aspiring authoritative leaders have tried to contain online opposition by denying their citizens access to sources present in a country with more media freedom. So, making way for a cyber-defamation law with blanket control over peoples’ fundamental rights will be harmful in the long run.
Getting expert and informed help
Presently, the country has defined laws against defamation and the penalties in case of a successful legal presentation. Therefore, proper legal authorities should judge the slanders or libels in the online platform. It is best to take the help of experienced Defamation lawyers if you are the victim or the accused – as they will be able to help you arrange a present your case correctly and ensure you get justice for your troubles.
In conclusion, unless proper legal instructions protecting human rights and stringent penalties for its abusers are present in its primary conditions, it is still early to pass any law affecting the everyday internet user’s activity.