What is Defamation?
Defamation, in simple terms, is the act of publishing false statements that have the potential to harm an individual’s or a company’s reputation. False statements can be made orally or in writing; in the latter case, they are called libel, while the former is called slander. Today, defamation can take many forms, even as a post on social media. Protecting oneself from either being sued for defamation or being a victim of defamation is crucial, as the spread of unfavourable comments on social media can reach millions of people in a matter of seconds, leading to the “snowball effect.”
Educating oneself on the meaning of defamation of character and the rights one has as a citizen of a civilised society is paramount. Cyberbullying, which typically involves posting messages online without contact with the person being defamed, is a common occurrence in online defamation.
According to the annual report of the courts’ service of Ireland, defamation claims have increased exponentially over time. In Ireland, defamation of character cases is twice as many as those in England and Wales, and while this increase could be a result of social media, the reasons behind it are still unclear. Nonetheless, the Defamation Act of 2009 in Ireland gives individuals a constitutional right to protect their good name, but the question remains: How can you act on these rights and safeguard yourself?
5 Steps You Can Take To Protect Yourself Against Defamation
Here are five steps you can take to safeguard yourself against defamation:
1. Exercise Patience and Stay Put
Silence can be the best form of treatment, as the guilty party might stop defaming you if you don’t respond. We know it can be hard not to fight back, but it takes patience to achieve this. Sometimes, the best course of action is to stay put.
2. Plan Your Next Move
If the first step is unsuccessful, you need to decide whether going to court is worth it in your situation. Consider how long the procedure might take, whether it will set you back, and how to locate the best solicitors near you. Narrowing down your research will assist you in making the best decision possible.
3. Collect as Much Evidence and Exhibits as You Can
Speed is critical when gathering evidence, particularly if the statement is libellous, as it may be deleted before you can collect it. Ethically record everything on time. The following six factors should be considered when collecting evidence:
- Whether the statement is false
- Whether the statement is privileged: Absolute privilege/ Qualified Privilege
- Whether it is a fair and reasonable publication
- Honest Opinion
- A formal apology
Please visit Citizens Information for more details.
4. Find a Solicitor
Finding the appropriate legal counsel, particularly one specialising in defamation cases in your area, is critical. It is ideal if they have a track record of a few cases to provide you with assurance.
5. Take Legal Action
If the aforementioned steps fail to address the issue, taking legal action may be necessary. This step should not be taken lightly, and only with the help of a qualified solicitor can one ensure the best possible outcome.
In summary, defamation is a serious matter that can cause irreparable damage to an individual’s or a company’s reputation. Educating oneself on what defamation of character entails and how to protect oneself is vital in today’s age of social media. With the right approach and legal assistance, one can prevent or mitigate the damage caused by defamation.