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  Oracle Tips by Burleson

Web Stalkers
Chapter 5 -
All About Cybercrime

Note:  This is a literature review prepared by a non-lawyer and this research may not be construed as legal advice.  If you are seeking legal advice of qualified attorneys, consult your local Bar Association, not these web pages. 

See these pages for more details.

Libel and the Internet

With respect to the Internet, defamation claims are generally filed for comments made in message boards or other posted material.  This would make them libel, so these cases are frequently termed cyber-libel. Often people will disagree with a statement made about them either in the printed media or on the Internet.  Their reaction is to talk about a lawsuit for defamation of character.  Even if the statement is false, it does not automatically mean that it is defamation.  In order for a written statement to be libelous, it must not only be false; it must also be harmful. 

One common trick of libelous conspiracies is to use circular references and republishing to avoid direct responsibility for their acts.  These acts have no protection under US laws and the courts are recognizing that republishing libel, even through linking to a libelous article, is a legitimate cause for action.

Malice and Libel

There are several criteria used to determine liability for false publications about anyone on the Internet:

  • Malicious Intent – The offender intends for publication of the statement to result in harm to the victim’s personal interests.

  • Reckless Disregard for Truth – The offender knows that the statement is false or acts in reckless disregard to its truth or falsity.

There is an additional standard for public figures (politicians, celebrities) whereby actual malice must be proven for a Libel charge to be valid.  In recent U.S. cases, a new concept called Limited Purpose Public Figure (LPPF) has been created.

If an individual is deemed to be a LPPF then they have the additional burden of proving actual malice on the part of the offender.  The U.S. Supreme Court developed a two-part inquiry for determining whether a defamation plaintiff is a LPPF:

  • Was there a particular “public controversy” that gave rise to the alleged defamation?

The above text is an excerpt from:

Web Stalkers
Protect yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths
ISBN 0-97-45993-9-5

by Donald K. Burleson, Stephen Andert

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