We’re back and today we shall be wrapping up our ongoing discussion. We want to take a closer look at some of the issues related to obtaining remedy in cases of online defamation and where possible, proffer alternatives. Let’s discuss these and more.
Elementarily, internet defamation is a ‘family’ way of designating internet libel and/or internet slander. While the former refers to written statements (blog postings, comments on forums, chat messages etc.) which are false but presented as facts, the latter points to spoken words (which could be presented through audio/video downloads or live streams). Much has been published on the elements of defamation; however, critical to our discussion is the element of publication. The centrality of publication cannot be undermined because, as we noted in our previous discussion, there must be an impression of some defamatory matter in the mind of a third party.
You’ve probably heard it said that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” So the first thing a plaintiff would do when there is an ongoing attack on his personality or business, is to quickly obtain an injunction to forestall further perpetration of the breach in order to limit the damage. We do something similar to injuries right? Yes. But the challenge thus becomes finding the tortfeasor in order to effect service of the injunction if granted. Oh, let’s not forget the fact that with social media “retweeting” and “sharing” is as easy as a few clicks and thus continues the spread.
Since it is often difficult to locate the particular user or person who published the material, some argue that liability can then fall on the Internet Service Provider (ISP) after due notice has been given to such an ISP to remove the content. This is a tone which can be discerned from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996 of the US. Relying on the above section, some have interpreted it to exclude bloggers and forum owner from liability for defamatory comments posted on their “comments” section.
Closely related to the above issue is that of jurisdiction. With advancements in modern technology, it is possible to browse the internet in Nigeria as if you were in Europe or in any other country for that matter. Of course, attempts can be made to trace the IP of the user but then again, the resources required to carry out the process are overwhelming in some cases. With the possibility of publication on multiple sites, another complicated dimension is introduced.
In concluding our discussion today, we want to share some tips that can help in the fight against internet defamation. One of such is to counter negative publications with the truth or simply, your own version of the story. You can reply to postings or comments on blogs and forums as you encounter them. There are several online services that specialize in cleaning up information about you online. Another way is to use a google service know as Google Alerts to find out what is being said about you or your business. It is also possible to use this service to receive alerts anytime something is said about you or your business as determined by your search parameters.
This weekend, we shall be discussing on another interesting topic; something about turning the sword on its blunt side. Can’t wait to find out?