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Let's be careful out there ....

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Old 10-04-2007, 12:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Springfield, Ohio
Posts: 83
Default Let's be careful out there ....

Dale Flick just reminded me of something that I supposedly have known for decades, and that we all should remember: saying something derogatory about an individual in a public forum (e.g., a message board) can constitute defamation. Moreover, in broad legal terms, corporations are viewed as individuals. So if I were to post that the CEO of XYZ Corp. is stupid, crooked, and ugly, I could get myself and the message board sued (especially if the exec is not actually ugly); I could bring on similar trouble by posting that XYZ Corp. is engaging in deceptive or fraudulent activity by claiming to pursue A while actually pursuing B. I could win a defamation case by demonstrating that my claim is true, but the burden of proof is on me.

A good simple statement of the ruling principle is that "a communication is defamatory if it tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him." By that measure, my recent snide comment about a certain executive and future career opportunities as a hotel manager are in the clear, but only because it was encased in hypotheticals and not directed to influential folk in the hospitality industry. Qualifiers like "If ... then" and "there is some evidence to suggest ..." are usually exculpatory.

What a shame. Defamation is so wonderfully cathartic.

Dave V.
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