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Libel and slander may be difficult to prove

The advent of social media seems to have given people in Ohio a platform that they may not otherwise have had for expressing their opinions. With that open opportunity, some people may say unkind or hurtful things, stirring up emotions and even violent reactions. The words libel and slander are tossed around these days with apparently little understanding of their legal implications. Not every insulting post is necessarily defamatory.

To be considered libel or slander, the statement that is published (typically in print or some audible format) must be false. The lie must also be made public so that others can see, hear or read the information. Despite the fact that the information may be hurtful in some way to the subject, the person making the statement must publish it without regard for those damages.

For example, a person may publish statements that suggest the subject is guilty of a heinous crime or has done something of questionable morality or integrity.  The statement may warn others of a physical or mental anomaly that would cause others to avoid the subject. The subject may be portrayed in such a way that he or she suffers ridicule or financial consequences.

The plaintiff must show that he or she is the subject of the publication. The plaintiff will also have to prove that the statement or publication has somehow damaged him or her in the community. These required elements of proof may be difficult to demonstrate if the publication is fictional or does not mention the plaintiff by name.

Nevertheless, just because something is presented as fiction does not mean it cannot be seen as libel and slander. The court may have to determine the context of the statement to decide if it was meant to defame. Anyone in Ohio who has suffered damages because someone made defaming remarks would benefit from presenting the details to an attorney who will assess the circumstances and advise the victim of the best course of action.

Source: findlaw.com, "Elements of Libel and Slander", Accessed on Dec. 9, 2016

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