Libel. Slander. No matter which term people are using, it usually leads to one thing: big fines, and a lot of publicity. It’s something that a lot of people are interested in figuring out, especially after so many celebrities seem to fling these terms around.
If you’re someone that really wants to know the difference between the two, then this guide is definitely for you!
Let’s start with slander. Slander is when you say something about someone in a public manner that could harm the person’s reputation and cause damage. For example, you see this a lot when comedians or anyone else takes a few too many cracks at a celebrity. That usually brings on a slander lawsuit, which is almost always settled out of court. That way, the terms are not required to be disclosed by anyone.
The thing about slander that’s important is that there have to be special damages — that is, that the victim of the slander has to prove that they lost money. Yet there are times where slander doesn’t need special damages. If you accuse someone of having AIDS, for example, they don’t have to prove special damages. If you accuse a woman of being “loose” or “unchaste”, they don’t have to prove special damages. These are rooted in more historical times, but these points still have legal teeth.
So what about libel? Well, libel is all about the written word — as in, saying things that aren’t true about someone in books, magazines, or even online. The Internet has really made the whole thing kinda complicated, because now it’s very public. For example, if you write something about someone else on a message board and it’s not true, you’re committing libel. It can come back to bite you in some crazy ways — especially if you’re running a website while you’re doing it.
The person you’re attacking could have the legal muscle to have the website shut down. Website providers are really trying hard not to get tangled up in things like that, which means that if there’s any hint of legal trouble they’re usually going to run the other direction — shutting your site down in the process, of course.
So, at the end of the day, what does slander and libel really mean to you? It means that you need to make sure that you don’t express opinions as fact — keep them as opinions, and you’ll be fine!