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Defamation

This module introduces defamation and internet defamation. How we conduct ourselves online in the virtual world can have some very real world consequences.
PLEASE NOTE: this page provides information ONLY. We do not provide legal or other professional advice. If you require advice, you need to speak with an expert.

Tips

  • Don't underestimate the power of posting something online.Posting something online is often public and permanent and may be costly.
  • Never post messages when you are angry.Walk away and cool down before you post online or send emails/text messages.
  • Choose your words wisely.Writing a negative review can be acceptable, however it doesn’t have to be mean.
  • Defamation can affect anyone.People of all ages can be victims.
  • Watch what you repost.Don't retweet or repost something that could be considered defamatory.

Additional information

The articles below cover cases that dealt with defamation:

It was found that all statements by Verdun to Astley were defamatory and that Verdun acted with malice. The jury awarded damages of up to $650,000 against Verdun. The court ordered a permanent ruling for Verdun, restraining him from publishing anything in any medium whatsoever about Astley.

Rancourt was accused of defamation for a blog post that called St. Lewis “a house negro.” Rancourt counter argued with fair comment but failed and the jury awarded St. Lewis a total of $794,895 in damages.

Awan was part of a protest that sparked online debate over the Canadian Human Rights Act section for hate speech. Levant was found to have defamed Awan with malicious comments, Levant is to pay a total of $80,000.

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Defamation

Defamation is separated into Libel (written statements) and Slander (oral statements). These are untrue statements that are harmful to someone's reputation. The statements can be about a person, business, organization, group, nation, or product.

"According to Article 17 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no person may be subjected to unlawful interference with his family, home, privacy, honor, or reputation. It also specifies that every person has the right to be protected against such interference." 

Generally, a harmful statement will not amount to libel, if one of the following defences applies:

If it was only made to the person mentioned in the statement, and not to anyone else.
If it is actually true, and the person making the statement makes the statement honestly and not maliciously.
Absolute privilege applies to statements made in court (as evidence in a trial) or in parliament.
Qualified privilege protects statements made non-maliciously and for well-meaning reasons. For example, if an employer is requested to give a reference for an employee, and they give a statement that is their honest opinion.
The defence of fair comment may apply in situations where statements made were about issues of public interest, as long as the comments were honest statements of opinion, based on fact. If your statements were malicious, this defense will not apply.
This defense is available in libel cases. It allows journalists the ability to report statements and allegations, in cases where there is a public interest in distributing the information to a wide audience. However, this defense only applies where the news was urgent, serious and of public importance, and the journalist used reliable sources and tried to report both sides of the issue.
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