What Counts as Slander these Days?

With freedom of information and the importance of journalism in our country, slander is a difficult and touchy subject. Just look at the recent case of Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker: Hulk Hogan claimed that Gawker was out to ruin his reputation by publishing a sex tape, but Gawker claimed to just be reporting the news. Hulk Hogan won out – people and companies are reasonably well-protected against slander, but it’s really difficult to undo what has been done. Hulk Hogan got some money, but his actions are more exposed than ever due to the high-profile nature of the case.

Here are some legal definitions from traverselegal.com to help understand the legal implications of internet defamation:

  • Defamation: An unprivileged false statement of fact which tends to harm the reputation of a person or company. This is a catch-all term for both libel and slander.
  • Libel: Defamation which is written such as on a web site. Most online defamation occurs through libel by posting a web page, comment, bulletin board post, review, rating or blog post.
  • Slander: Defamation that is spoken such as through an transcribed video, podcast or audio file.

There are several options for a company if they feel that someone has committed slander.

Sue. This is the route that Hulk Hogan took. This is a difficult and costly avenue – even Hogan couldn’t do it without a billionaire financially backing him. And, it was a highly controversial case that may have done more harm than good to Hogan and Gawker’s images. This might not be the best route for your business.

You could ask to get it removed. Consider people have trouble getting even counterfeited content off the web, it’s likely to be difficult to get bad reviews or negative content. It might be time-consuming and unsuccessful. Plus, people are likely to pull the freedom of speech card. Companies like Google and Yelp don’t want to be seen as losing credibility for removing reviews and other content.

You can drown out the negative content with positive content. This is a great strategy with a double win – not only will you be reducing the effects of negative content, but you will be putting out great reviews and testimonials to make customers want to choose your company and products even more! After all, what’s one or two slanderous reviews when there are a million positive ones emphasizing what a great company you have? What’s one negative article, when you have many reinforcing how knowledgeable you are? You don’t have to worry about the definition of slander – just invest in good content marketing.

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