Social media litigation can be caused or initiated for various reasons related to privacy violations, online defamation, internet harassment, contractual disputes, and intellectual property violations.
Online defamation takes place when a false factual statement, that is not privileged, is published and damages the victim’s reputation in the community. The statement must be a fact and not an opinion. There are several defenses to defamation such as truth and absolute or qualified privilege. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation. According to Civil Code Section 47(a), a privileged publication or broadcast is one made: (1) in the proper discharge of an official duty; (2) in any legislative proceeding; (3) in any judicial proceeding; (4) in any other official proceeding authorized by law; or (5) in the initiation or course of any other proceeding authorized by law and reviewable by mandamus. The concept of “qualified privilege” applies to employers under the following conditions: Employers can make statements about their employees as long as the statement is not malicious and was made to third parties with a common interest in the subject matter. Malice can be proven by showing ill-will, hatred, or lack of reasonable grounds when the statement was made to a third party.