October 27, 2023 by Bojana Krstic

How to Deal with Defamation on Social Media

Thanks to the rise of social media, it’s easier than ever for everyone, including high-profile individuals to get their message out across the world.

Even brands and corporations use social media to inform and interact with their audience in a meaningful way.

However, there is another, much darker side of social media platforms. The one characterized by trolling, cyberbullying, misinformation, libel, defamation, and slander on social media.

In this article, we are taking a look at concepts like social media defamation, slander on social media, and libel.

We will also talk about the best guidelines for voiding defamation on social media and the best practices for handling defamation and slander.

What Is Defamation?

Defamation is a legal term encompassing both spoken and written false statements that can harm an individual’s or corporation’s reputation.

The claimant must base a defamation claim on three elements:

  • The statement must be false.
  • It must be communicated to a third party, not a claimant.
  • The statement can potentially harm the claimant’s reputation.

Being tied to specific laws, defamation can differ from country to country.

For instance, in some countries, the claimant can hold a third party responsible for defamatory statements no matter what steps they took before publishing it, while in the US, they must prove that the defendant was at fault.

This requires the claimant to demonstrate that the third party neglected their duty in conveying the defamatory statement. For private figures, this necessitates showing that the defendant acted negligently.

If the claimant is a public figure or official, they have to prove the case with malicious intent – that the defendant was aware that the “statement was false or recklessly disregarded”, whether it was faulty or not.

In this article, we will use the words slander and libel often, so it’s very important to know the differences.

The Difference Between Slander and Libel

With defamation being a broad term it has two distinctions depending on the medium of its communication.

  • Slander refers to false spoken statements or oral communication that can damage someone’s reputation and usually involves verbally made statements to a third party through spoken words or gestures.
  • Libel refers to written or otherwise fixed false statements that can harm someone’s reputation. This can include written words, images, or any form of communication that leaves a permanent record.

What Is Defamation on Social Media?

Defamation on social media refers to the act of making false statements about an individual, business, product, or service through different social media channels.

As such, defamatory content on social media can take the form of text, images, videos, or any other medium that can be seen by the wider public.

With it being so easy to share content on social media and giving people a sense of anonymity, defamation on social media is a common occurrence.

Some famous examples of social media defamation cases include Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Courtney Love, and James Woods. They have all been involved with numerous libel lawsuits over tweets, with mixed results.

To be considered a defamation case, social media content needs to possess three elements:

  • Falsity — The posted content and its statements must be false.
  • Harm — The content must harm the reputation of the subject.
  • Publication — The content needs to be shared (posted) to a wide audience.

Examples of social media defamation

Almost all content shared publicly can be considered defamation if it impacts someone’s reputation and the most common examples are:

  • YouTube video spreading lies about a prominent figure,
  • Creating fake news stories on Reddit,
  • Posting edited images on Instagram,
  • Listing fake reviews on a Facebook business page,
  • Leaking fake information on Twitter,
  • LinkedIn posts suggesting unethical practices of a competitor,
  • Accusing someone in the comment section.

As you can see, social media defamation usually comes in the form of false information, exaggerating the truth, taking things out of context, and sometimes blatantly lying.

Do note that defamation on social media isn’t always purposefully done to harm someone’s reputation. Sometimes the person posting isn’t even aware that they are committing defamation.

But what do you do when someone slanders you on social media?

Can You Sue Someone For Slander On Social Media?

Yes, you can sue someone for slander on social media, but proving the case can be very challenging at times as you will need a lot of evidence and backup from your lawyers.

Naturally, it is much easier for politicians or celebrities with powerful legal teams to win a case than for private figures. Winning such a lawsuit isn’t easy or cheap, but with solid evidence, it is far from impossible, even for “mortals.”

One big exception is beginning any lawsuits against social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube…

These platforms are granted immunity under internet legislation known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They generally can’t be sued unless a key exception applies.

So, if being slandered on social media, it’s best to file a lawsuit against the individual who posted or commented on the statement, not the platform.

How to Deal With Slander On Social Media

If you are confident that you’re subjected to libel or slander on social media, there are a few steps you can take to try to fix the situation.

Here’s what to do when someone slanders you on social media:

Don’t react

It might be counterintuitive, but overreacting to the slander can generate an even more bad reputation for you.

You are risking going into a war against the other side which usually spreads over social media where the other side usually has the advantage since they slandered you.

The exception could be if you have 100% solid evidence and you can clean yourself off from slander in a calm way.

But do consider the actual harm the statement may pose to your reputation, and think about your next steps thoroughly. However, whatever your next steps might be, ensure you’ve captured the published statement before the author deletes it.

Gather Proof

When defamation happens the author can always edit or delete the post, comment, photo, or article in question.

Your first action when defamatory content is posted is to capture it quickly as you will be able to use it in a lawsuit.

It is advisable to use a tool to keep a defensible and authenticated copy that you can also use in court if the matter comes that far.

A social media archiving system can help with that, especially if you’re an organization that uses social media to communicate with citizens, customers, or the general public.

Consult a lawyer

Engaging a lawyer will help you understand if you’re dealing with a genuine social defamation case or a lost cause.

They will also be able to provide expert advice, guide you in the right direction, and help you decide what your next steps would be.

The sooner you consult a lawyer, the better – it will prevent impulsive decisions or making any potentially harmful steps yourself.

Send a cease and desist letter for defamation

One of the steps a lawyer might recommend when dealing with slander on social media is sending a cease and desist letter.

A cease and desist letter on social media is a document sent to the author of defamation statements demanding the cessation of such activity. An author can, of course, decide to ignore the demand. If this is the case, you would have to take the matter to court.

Still, a well-written letter from a reputable law firm is often enough to get a defamatory statement deleted or retreated. Even if some damage has already been done, a cease and desist letter can prevent further negative consequences.

Make your statement

While it’s far from advisable to jump into a Twitter or Facebook battle, issuing your statement to renounce a social media defamation claim may be wise.

However, before creating and publishing such a statement, it’s advisable to get help from a communications expert or a PR firm.

Your response to the social media defamation needs to be factual, balanced, and without any defamation from your side.

This statement needs to be shared on proper channels and address the situation correctly without talking about taking legal action.

This kind of communication will show that the claim is false and that you don’t want to get into further arguments.

Take the case to court

If everything before this doesn’t yield the results you desired and you see the defamation as a great impact on your reputation, then it’s completely in your right to take the case to court.

You need to prepare your evidence because you’ll need to prove they weren’t edited and that the posts were 100% false, as well as how they impacted you.

But keep in mind that social media slander cases are very dependent on the particular jurisdiction and the quality of proof.


Defamation on social media is a very serious topic and occurs more often than you think. That’s why you need to be prepared and take proper action.

Always think of archiving the defamatory content as soon as possible and immediately contact a reputable lawyer for the best chances of winning the potential case, but it’s always in your interest to stop the case from going to court.

It’s very important to know that defamation can even happen from inside your own organization, by your employees, through their posts, comments, and messages.

This is why archiving your organization’s social media data is so important as nothing can get past you and you will always have solid evidence.

Archive your social media content with Jatheon’s cloud archiving solution. Capture data automatically, easily find posts, comments, and chats, and manage your social media data with ease.



How to avoid defamation on social media?

Try to keep a positive image and avoid controversy as much as possible. Monitor your social media for any kind of negative posts made about you as they can lead to defamation. Note that there will always be people who want to do you harm no matter who you are. As for you defaming someone accidentally, always be factual in what you post and verify information before sharing, avoid posting controversial posts and badmouthing anyone, familiarize yourself with defamation law and understand its boundaries. In any case, always be prepared with all of your data archived and a good lawyer by your side.

Is a text message libel or slander?

Text messages technically fall under the libel category because they are considered written communication, unlike slander which is spoken. However, you should be aware that legal definitions can vary by jurisdiction in this case. If not made public, text messages can be considered slander in some cases, but if made public they are surely considered libel.

Is suing for social media defamation worth it?

It depends on various factors like the severity of the harm done, the strength of evidence you have, and the required resources for legal action. Most of the time suing isn’t worth it as it is costly and time consuming and in some cases might damage your reputation more than the defamation did. On the other hand, if you have a winnable case and the defamation was severe, you might be right to pursue legal action.

What evidence do you need to prove defamation?

To prove defamation, you will need evidence that a false statement was presented as fact, posted on a social media platform, and caused harm to your reputation. Depending on the jurisdiction, you might need to prove that the person making the post intentionally acted to cause you harm. You should also provide specific details about the damages resulting from the defamation to make your case more compelling. Since every case is different and defamation is a tricky topic, consulting with a good lawyer is always the best course of action.


Read Next:

How to Deal with Social Media Trolls

The First Amendment and Social Media Policies

Social Media Ediscovery and Investigating Employee Misconduct

About the Author
Bojana Krstic
Bojana Krstic is the Head of Content and SEO at Jatheon and an experienced writer on topics like data archiving, ediscovery, and compliance. When AFK, you’ll find her hiking, discovering new music, or road-tripping.

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