Legal Trouble for “Anonymous” Online Commenters: Joan Jerkovich
Before you hit the enter button to post a comment on your favorite blog, social media, or online site, be forewarned that if your comment can be proven in a court of law to contain a libelous statement about an individual or business you can be sued for damages.
As the Internet has become an increasingly popular reporting and social media tool, libelous claims have risen. Two criteria apply. If your post can be proven false, and proven that it was published with the intention of harming that entity’s reputation, the offended party has a case against you.
The defense tool you hold is the truth. If what you are posting is the absolute truth and can be proven to be so, your post, no matter how damaging to a person or businesses’ reputation, is not libel. Keep in mind, however, that defending your comment as truth can be difficult and expensive and in any legal claim, your position of “truth” is not assured.
So what happens if you are posting “anonymously”? If you don’t know it by now, you are not as anonymous as you might think. Your identity can be traced. Numerous court cases have forced Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to provide information and the IP address of known offenders.
So, before you post that comment, listen to my podcast for answers to the following questions:
- Do you have to use a persons name to be sued?
- Can you also be sued if you just agreed with the libelous comment?
- What is the statute of limitations for online defamation?
- Can the ISP and host website also be sued for libel?
- My caller, a public figure in her community, was falsely accused of having an affair. Does she plan to sue the commenter?