Ever wonder about how outrageous you can be in a Tweet or Facebook post? Well wonder no more and say hello to libel and slander litigation.
According to Slate.com, “A British politician is seeking damages from high-profile Twitter users who repeated or retweeted a false report linking him to child sex abuse.”
In “Can You Libel Someone on Twitter,” L.V. Anderson, “The former Conservative Party official, Alistair McAlpine, is also asking lower-profile Twitter users who libeled him to apologize and make a donation to charity. The United Kingdom is notorious for its plaintiff-friendly defamation laws—but what about in the United States?
Yes. Medium of communication is irrelevant in American defamation laws; even an email sent to a single person can be libelous. To be libelous (in the United States), a statement must be false and damaging to an individual or corporation, and the person who made that statement must have been at fault (i.e., known that the statement was false, acted recklessly with regard to the facts, or otherwise been irresponsible). Whether a person makes a defamatory statement on a blog, in a newspaper, or on Twitter or Facebook, he or she can be held legally liable for it.
“In the United States, however, if you retweet a libelous statement, you are unlikely to be sued for damages. That’s because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” with regard to defamation and invasion-of-privacy cases. A simple retweet or Facebook “like” is likely to be protected under Section 230—but a modified tweet or Facebook comment could constitute libel.”