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Defamation & SLAPP

Digital defamation, libel & slander litigation & Anti-SLAPP law (defamation defense) – It seems the internet is the WILD, WILD, West. We can help protect your company from slander, libel, right of publicity and false light damage.  We can also bring and defend Anti-SLAPP actions in California.

Bonus materials: Click on the picture above to learn more than most people will EVER KNOW about first amendment “free speech” in the United States of America.  Free speech and parody is a defense to defamation (which includes libel and slander).  Click on the Red “V” to subscribe.  Feel free to share this video on your social media networks.


The internet has opened up avenues of comment and criticism to people all over the world.  For your company, this means that your brand is constantly under attack by disgruntled employees and ex-employees, unhappy customers, and even your competitors.  Defending your brand and reputation is serious business in a digital world (and also in the offline world where corporate competitors often duke it out in the trenches and are willing to tarnish another person to either get the job, or prevent others from getting the job).  It is a jungle out there and sometimes things get carried away, and people or companies need to be sent a message that certain conduct exceeds protected free speech.

This is where we come in.  We help you fight to protect your good name and business reputation (i.e. your brand) from false and slanderous comments that exceed the boundaries of legitimate free speech and notions of fair competition.


Case law regarding defamation

Libels may be divided into three classes:

(1) Publications which are obviously defamatory and which are termed libels per se; 

(2) publications which are susceptible of two reasonable interpretations, one of which is defamatory and the other is not,


(3) publications which are not obviously defamatory, but which become so when considered in connection with innuendo, colloquium and explanatory circumstances. This type of libel is termed libel per quod.

When an unauthorized publication is libelous per se, malice and damage are presumed from the fact of publication and no proof is required as to any resulting injury. The law presumes that general damages actually, proximately and necessarily result from an unauthorized publication which is libelous per se and they are not required to be proved by evidence since they arise by inference of law, and are allowed whenever the immediate tendency of the publication is to impair plaintiff's reputation, although no actual pecuniary loss has in fact resulted. 36 C.J. 1150; Baker v. Winslow, 184 N.C. 1, 113 S.E. 570; Fields v. Bynum, 156 N.C. 413, 72 S.E. 449; New York Evening Post Co. v. Chaloner, 265 F. 204.

In an action upon a publication coming within the second class, that is, a publication which is susceptible of two interpretations, one of which is defamatory, it is for the jury to determine under the circumstances whether the publication is defamatory and was so understood by those who saw it. Wright v. Credit Co., ante, 87; McCall v. Sustair, 157 N.C. 179, 72 S.E. 974, also at 161 N.C. 213; Vincent v. Pace, 178 N.C. 421, 100 S.E. 581; Lewis v. Carr, 178 N.C. 578, 101 S.E. 97; Lucas v. Nichols, 52 N.C. 32.

Publications which are libelous per quod the innuendo and special damages must be alleged and proved. Oates v. Trust Co., 205 N.C. 14, 169 S.E. 869; Walker v. Tucker, 220 Ky. 363 53 A.L.R., 547; 17 R.C.L. 264; L.R.A. 1916-B, 915\

Flake v. Greensboro News Co., 212 N.C. 780, 785, 195 S.E. 55, 59 (1937)

Attorney Steve® Discusses Potential Defamation Defenses in California

We handle defamation cases in the following areas:

1.  Defamation litigation (both online and offline defamation)

2.  Cease and desist letters

3.  Take down notices to social media platforms (ex. fake accounts / profiles on facebook that injure or embarrass a person in violation of the facebook privacy policy or other policy)

4.  Libel lawsuit (libel = written slander)

5.  Slander lawsuits (slander = oral slander)

6.  Intentional interference with contractual relations or prospective business advantage

7.  Anti-SLAPP litgation

8.  First amendment litigation (defense of legitimate fair use criticism cases)

9.  False light litigation (good overview of these privacy torts in this video)

10.  Publication of private facts on internet websites

11.  Intrusion on seclusion and solitude

12.  Facebook and Instagram defamation and imposter accounts 

13.  Yelp defamation (click here to learn more about how to handle negative Yelp reviews)

14.  Youtube defamation

15.  False claims and complaints made to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), ComplaintsBoard and regulatory agencies (ex. Bureau of Real Estate or Department of Business Oversight in California), or RipoffReport

17.  Online defamation involving brand tarnishment

18.  How to deal with negative online reviews on Google

19.  DMCA Defamation claims (NEW)

Listen to Attorney Steve, the Internet Defamation Lawyer discuss this topic

What do I need to be able to prove to make a viable claim for internet defamation or offline defamation?

Regardless of whether or not your defamation claim involves an internet-based type of defamation claim or a more traditional defamation claim that occurs offline, you will need to consider what defamation IS and ISN”T from a legal standpoint and what the definition of defamation is.  Here is what a Plaintiff pursuing a defamation case needs to be able to show:

1.  Defendant made a false statement of FACT.  Keep in mind, opinions are protected as free speech. So make sure before you call your defamation attorneys that you are able to SHOW that the statement being made is UTTERLY FALSE.  Remember, TRUTH IS A DEFENSE to defamation, whether oral, or written, so the first and most important thing is to make sure you can prove that the statement at issue, that you allege is injuring your reputation and causing you personal or business damages is FALSE at its core.

2.  The false statement must be “of and concerning the Plaintiff.”  This means that you must be able to show the false statement of fact made by the defendant was actually about YOU or YOUR COMPANY and not actually disparaging some third party.

3.  The false statements must be one that injures Plaintiff's reputation in the community.  Hurt feelings are generally not enough reason to file a defamation lawsuit. Make sure there is a serious damage to ones reputation in the community.  This is not always easy to show, and is something you need to be able to make a legal argument about.

4.  You need to show that you were DAMAGED by the false statement of fact about you.  This may sound simple, but this is where many defamation cases fail.  You need to be prepared as a Plaintiff to be able to show how the tort of defamation actually harmed or injured you. For example, you might need to prove that you lost a job, lost a contract with a major vendor or supplier, lost out on a business opportunity, or suffered some other type of clear and concrete damages.  In some cases you might get a presumption of damages, but you should never count on this and should always have solid evidence of damages before entertaining filing a civil lawsuit for defamation, whether libel or slander.

Sarah Palin Defamation Case [Revived by NY Court of Appeals]

In a recent case from Second Circuit (NY) the appeals court revived Sarah Palin's previously dismissed lawsuit for defamation against the New York Times (for allegedly tying here into a shooting in Tucson, Arizona).

VIDEO:  Watch Attorney Steve® explain the overturn and also gives a caution to the United States public to TONE DOWN THE RHETORIC.  Make sure to SUBSCRIBE to our legal channel now approaching 50,000 subscribers.

What if I am being defamed on an internet website or other media?

Bear in mind, media defendants who report the news are going to get more leeway to defame you.  Also, lawyers in a lawsuit will get a privilege to defame you in the course of a case.  So there are privileges to keep in mind, and media defendants will normally not be liable unless they published defamatory content with knowledge of the falsity or in reckless disregard of the truth.  This is known as the “New York Times v. Sullivan” standard.  The best bet is to have your case reviewed by a litigation law firm, and even where you do not have defamation that can be a financially viable case in court to file, this does not mean that you cannot send a cease and desist letter to defend your good name, business name and reputation.

Our law firm offers litigation review and analysis and low cost legal services if and when a cease and desist letter would best serve your interests.  Sometime, upon receiving a demand letter from a litigation law firm, this can achieve the desired result you need to “set the record straight” and prevent unfair business practices from occurring in the future.

Before you think of filing a Defamation lawsuit, make sure you look at the ANTI-SLAPP statute in California

PODCAST:  When a Plaintiff brings a meritless lawsuit against a Defendant for the sole purpose of chilling free speech, this could raise an “Anti-SLAPP” motion issue.  For example, if you sue someone and you are really trying to do nothing more than to “chill” their free speech, you could find yourself battling an SLAPP action (strategic lawsuit against public participation).  Attorney Steve discusses this concept in this general legal podcast!

Watch Attorney Steve talk about when free speech turns to hate speech.

VIDEO:  Click on the picture above to watch the video.  Make sure to SUBSCRIBE by clicking on the Red “V” for Victory.  WE ARE NOW UP OPVER 6,500 SUBSCRIBERS.

Libel and Defamation is NOT protected free speech

In one important case dealing with some hostilities on Balboa Island (over the Village Inn restaurant) the California court made clear:

“But the right to free speech, “[a]lthough stated in broad terms, … is not absolute.” (Aguilar v. Avis Rent A Car System, Inc. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 121, 134, 87 Cal.Rptr.2d 132, 980 P.2d 846 (plur. opn. of George, C.J.).) “Liberty of speech … is … not an absolute right, and the State may punish its abuse.” (Near v. Minnesota (1931) 283 U.S. 697, 708, 51 S.Ct. 625, 75 L.Ed. 1357.) “The First Amendment presupposes that the freedom to speak one's mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty—and thus a good unto itself—but also is essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole. Under our Constitution, ‘there is no such thing as a false idea. However pernicious an opinion may seem, we depend for its correction not on the conscience of judges and juries, but on the competition of other ideas.' Nevertheless, there are categories of communication and certain special utterances to which the majestic protection of the First Amendment does not extend, because they ‘are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.' Libelous speech has been held to constitute one such category” (Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. (1984) 466 U.S. 485, 503–504, 104 S.Ct. 1949, 80 L.Ed.2d 502; Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002) 535 U.S. 234, 245–246, 122 S.Ct. 1389, 152 L.Ed.2d 403 [“The freedom of speech has its limits; it does not embrace certain categories of speech, including defamation….”]; R.A.V. v. St. Paul (1992) 505 U.S. 377, 382–383, 112 S.Ct. 2538, 120 L.Ed.2d 305; Beauharnais v. Illinois (1952) 343 U.S. 250, 255–257, 266, 72 S.Ct. 725, 96 L.Ed. 919 [“Libelous utterances not being within the area of constitutionally protected speech….”] Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) 315 U.S. 568, 571–572, 62 S.Ct. 766, 86 L.Ed. 1031.)

See Balboa Island Vill. Inn, Inc. v. Lemen, 40 Cal. 4th 1141, 1147, 156 P.3d 339, 343 (2007),  as modified (Apr. 26, 2007).

Common Defamation Defenses

mindmap of defamation defenses

If you or your business is falsely accused of defamation, we can help evaluate your case for potential defenses. Here are some of the most common ones to think about:

1.  Truth

2.  Opinion (protected by the first amendment)

3.  Protected free speech against celebrity / public figure

4.  Consent

5.  Parody / prank

6.  No harm to reputation (no damages)

7.  There was no publication to a third party

8.  The statement cannot reasonably be seen as referring to the Plaintiff

9.  Privilege (absolute or qualified)

10.  Statute of limitations - California is one year.

Defamation Statute of Limitations

CACI No. 1722 - Civil Jury Instruction

[Name of defendant] contends that [name of plaintiff]'s lawsuit was not
filed within the time set by law. To succeed on this defense, [name of
defendant] must prove that [he/she/nonbinary pronoun/it] first
communicated the alleged defamatory statement to a person other than
[name of plaintiff] before [insert date one year before date of filing]. [For
statements made in a publication, the claimed harm occurred when the
publication was first generally distributed to the public.]
[If, however, [name of plaintiff] proves that on [insert date one year before
date of filing] [he/she/nonbinary pronoun/it] had not discovered the facts
constituting the defamation, and with reasonable diligence could not
have discovered those facts, the lawsuit was filed on time.]
The delayed discovery rule can apply to matters published in an inherently secretive
manner. (Hebrew Academy of San Francisco v. Goldman (2007) 42 Cal.4th 883, 894
[70 Cal.Rptr.3d 178, 173 P.3d 1004].
The single-publication rule as described in our opinion in Shively and as
codified in Civil Code section 3425.3 applies without limitation to all
publications.” (Hebrew Academy of San Francisco, supra, 42 Cal.4th at p. 893.)

Contact an Internet Defamation Lawyer

If your personal or corporate brand is under attack by internet defamation (or traditional defamation that occurs OFFLINE), contact us to arrange a consultation to discuss your matter with a defamation attorney.  We can let you know if you have a strong case to pursue against the poster of false and defamatory digital content or other person who is out to damage and tarnish you in the marketplace.

Call us at (877) 276-5084 to speak with a free speech, anti-SLAPP, defamation law firm.  Please leave your name and phone number and usually, we will contact you within the hour.

Contact us for an initial consultation!

For more information, or to discuss your case or our experience and qualifications please contact us at (877) 276-5084. Please note that our firm does not represent you unless and until a written retainer agreement is signed, and any applicable legal fees are paid. All initial conversations are general in nature. Free consultations are limited to time and availability of counsel and will depend on the type of case you are calling about (no free consultations for other lawyers). All users and potential clients are bound by our Terms of Use Policies. We look forward to working with you!
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