Skip to the content

Social Media Libel and Defamation: Considerations for You and Your Family

Social media has completely changed the ways in which individuals communicate, and has been a major point of contention among parents given the sheer volume of libel and defamation taking place through the various channels. If you want to protect yourself from potential lawsuits – while also ensuring your children know how to avoid such a fate as well – you need to know how these matters are defined and what you can do to proactively defend yourself.

Defamation, slander, libel
Here are a few standard definitions that have become more important in the era of social media and mass communications:

  • Libel: The actual false and damaging statement that has been published.
  • Defamation: The act of publishing libel.
  • Slander: Spoken or written statements that are false and damaging, which can include social media posts. This would be a good word to teach children, as many will commonly hear a slanderous statement and then publish it on social media.

To be clear, these are not at all victimless crimes, and they can result in substantive backlash and/or financial loss.

How lawsuits have transpired
The Independent reported that the number of lawsuits related to social media-based libel increased by 300 percent between 2013 and 2014, coinciding with the massive rises in activity on these channels.

To give you an idea of how damaging libel and defamation can be to the perpetrator, here are just two notable social media cases from the past few years:

  • $80,000 gone: CNN reported that one leader of a preparatory school had won $80,000 in a discrimination lawsuit, but his young daughter ended up “boasting about it on Facebook,” defying the confidentiality agreement involved, and the settlement was rescinded.
  • Cyberbullies on the stand: TODAY reported that a 14-year-old Georgia student sued two of her peers for libel after they allegedly posted defamatory statements on Facebook.

Protect yourself and your family
Here are a few steps you can take to proactively mitigate the threat of libel and defamation lawsuits against your children:

  • Teach them the dangers of posting derogatory statements on social media websites.
  • Educate them as to how to be respectful to their peers and others online.
  • Always pull the plug on their Internet access when you spot potentially libelous posts.
  • Monitor their activity on social media until you feel they are old enough to be trusted with these platforms.

In addition to educating yourself and your children as to how to avoid taking part in defamation, speak with RC4 Insurance Agency, LLC about your liability insurance coverage and whether it can properly protect you in case something goes awry. All it takes is a few moments and an irresponsible click to land in court, and this insurance can protect against potentially massive legal costs.

Article From Selective Insurance