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Internet Defamation

Individuals and businesses increasingly rely on the internet to obtain information for matters effecting their everyday lives. Unfortunately, as the power of the internet grows, so, too do the number of situations in which that power is abused, and the number of lawsuits to try and remedy those abuses.

Within the last ten years, the number of cases brought by individuals and businesses for defamation and wrongful interference with business relationships based on statements made on the internet has exploded. The plaintiffs in these cases include celebrities, reality television stars, Fortune 500 companies, homeowners associations, as well as ordinary individuals. Sometimes the persons who post the defamatory statements are known, or acknowledge their authorship. Other times they post statements anonymously or pseudononymously, in which case discovery may be necessary to establish who posted the statements and where they came from. This typically involves using the court’s subpoena power to obtain electronic data and other records from internet service providers, domain registrars, and the websites and blogs where the statements appeared.

Although cases involving defamation over the internet have many similarities to cases involving defamation in other mediums, the internet presents a host of unique, and in many cases novel legal issues that courts have only just begun to grapple with. Unlike defamation cases involving print or television, defamation cases involving statements made over the internet are governed by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). The Act provides immunity to internet service providers under most circumstances, but not to the authors of the defamatory statements, or to websites or blog owners if they create or edit content. In addition, many states have laws which give rise to both civil and criminal liability for cyberstalking. Because new issues continue to arise concerning how to interpret these statutes, the law in this area is constantly evolving.

Successfully litigating internet defamation cases requires both a knowledge of the law of internet defamation, as well as an understanding of how the internet works as a communication medium. Our firm has represented numerous individuals and businesses in cases involving internet defamation, wrongful interference with business relationships, and other claims arising out of defamatory statements made over the internet, and is known nationally for obtaining an $11.3 million against a defendant in an internet defamation case. If you believe you have a claim for internet defamation or other malicious conduct that has resulted in substantial emotional or financial harm to you or your company’s reputation, or require legal counseling or representation as a result of claims that have been made against you, contact us to discuss your case.