FaceBook Posts – Free Speech or Libel?

Local Covington, KY attorney with decades of experience and personalized attention to your case

Photo of attorney Michael W. Bouldin

FaceBook Posts – Free Speech or Libel?

by | Mar 19, 2024 | Firm News |

When you post on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media, you are generally protected by the 1st Amendment assuring Free Speech.  That said, all speech is not free.  While you are allowed to express an opinion about virtually any topic, statements that damage another person’s reputation may be subject to litigation and financial consequences.

Libel is defined as a published statement that is defamatory to a person’s reputation. The difference between libel and slander is that libel is written while slander is a statement. Libel has four (4) basic elements:

  1. The statement was false or intentionally misleading.
  2. That the statement was made (published) to a third party.
  3. That the person who made the statement did so negligently, recklessly or intentionally; and,
  4. That as a result of the statement, your reputation was damaged.

Damages can vary wildly in cases of libel and slander. Certain false statements are considered so inherently harmful that it is considered “defamation per se,” meaning it is presumed to be damaging to a person’s reputation without any additional proof of harm.  Examples of defamation per se are:

  1. Saying that someone committed a crime or immoral conduct
  2. Saying that someone had a contagious, infectious, or “loathsome” disease
  3. Saying someone engaged in sexual misconduct or was unchaste
  4. Saying something harmful about someone’s business, trade, or profession

Legal Advice: First, think before making a defamatory statement, even if true.  If it is not true or you are not certain, do not make that statement. If you have made false or defamatory statement and are concerned about liability, take it down and do not repeat it. Most victims want the statement retracted, recanted and removed. Removing the social media post will also minimize the damage and potential financial consequences to the other party. Finally, if you are victim of libel or slander, speak to an attorney. The attorney may assist in filing a lawsuit and initiating litigation, or may suggest a cease & desist letter to the publisher.

Responsible and accurate reporting is a cornerstone of your 1st Amendment rights of free speech. Contact Bouldin Law Firm by calling 859-581-6453 or using this contact form.