Unless you’ve been vacationing in a remote part of the world without access to the internet {if you have, good for you}, or hiding under a rock, there’s no doubt that you have seen all of the social media coverage surrounding the recent violence that has taken place in many parts of the United States.

This past week has been really tough to watch, listen, and digest as many have lost their lives and that has been heartbreaking.

As if the violence and deaths of innocent people isn’t hard enough to watch, what has really knocked my socks off {or caused me to double-scroll}, are some of the social media/blog posts I have seen written by some of my faves.

Now as a lawyer, it’s kind of hard for me to “turn it off” when I see things that are potential lawsuits waiting to happen {just ask my husband how much it drives him crazy when we watch Power and I keep explaining what would REALLY happen…}

I know, we are all human and have emotions, but I wanted to write a post to share with you the importance of being super careful about what you post on social media and/or your blog, so that you aren’t setting yourself up for a defamation lawsuit.

What is defamation?

Defamation covers two types of communication, written (libel) and spoken (slander). Essentially, defamation is a statement that is communicated to a third party and makes a claim, either expressly or implied to be factual, that injures another’s reputation or causes others not to associate with the person or business. Malicious intent is not generally required. And given that few bloggers would likely be classified as Public Figures within the very narrow definition, you shouldn’t rely on the “but they have to prove malice” defense.

With blogging, the main concern will be libel. Even if it’s not a written blog post but rather a vlog or podcast or some other type of internet-oriented medium, you’re likely going to be dealing with libel.

How does this apply to you and your blog/social media account?

Now almost all states have Media Shield Laws that protect members of the media and media organizations from defamation suits. But the problem is not all of those states include the internet in their Shield laws. This sucks for bloggers because it means that you are not able to use those same protections if you decide to write negative things about other people or organizations when your statements are implied to be or stated as factual when in-fact they are not.

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about when you decide to give a review or share your opinion and/or your own personal experiences which happen to be negative. Truth is always a defense to a defamation claim, but you have to have some proof that what you state is, in fact, true.

Fact vs. opinion

One of the key pieces to the definition of libel is the requirement that the statement be asserted as fact. This is why you always want to make it very clear that your statements are merely your opinion.

Should you be worried?

Most of the time, when it comes to your blog, the risks of defamation are super low. The topics covered are generally not going to involve defamatory/damaging statements about people and/or organizations, so the answer is: no, you shouldn’t be worried.

But when emotions are high, like they are now, you want to be super careful about what you post about people, organizations, and events that allegedly took place and be sure to fact-check before reposting what you’ve seen on other sites. Resist the urge to rant and slam others about what they allegedly did, until we have all of the facts.

Finally, share your opinion as “your opinion” or “based on what you’ve heard and/or know at this time” and not as fact.

Key takeaway

Remember, the US legal system is very easy to use which means there is a real possibility of being sued. Because being sued isn’t the same as being held responsible, someone can sue you just because they have a good faith belief that you’re defaming them. {Just ask Donald Trump}.