Slander in the media

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Las calumnias en medios de comunicación

Slander in the media

Nowadays, the digital revolution that has brought about the irruption of the Internet and social networks as transversal means of communication. This situation has unleashed a wave of interaction of users of all kinds with other users and entities that, on many occasions, involve the commission of offenses that can be classified as slander or libel.

In this sense, it is essential to bear in mind that the expressions and information that are published on networks, especially when this information involves exacerbated criticism, may be considered slander or libel.

What is the difference between slander and libel?

As a starting point we must be able to differentiate between the criminal types of slander and libel: specifically, slander involves the attribution to a natural or legal person of a crime.

The penal code specifies that such attribution must be made “with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.

Let’s take an example. Let’s imagine that a user leaves a negative evaluation of a company’s services published in the Google My Business tool, in which, in order to emphasize his annoyance at the attention received or the bad service provided, he includes an expression of the type “they are scammers!”.

Well, this type of expression could be considered, in the event that the company takes the matter to court, filing a lawsuit against the user who published it, as slander. This is because it attributes to the employer and the company’s personnel the condition of fraudsters, a crime provided for in article 248 and following of the Penal Code.

We must emphasize again that the passive subject of this type of crime of slander and libel can also be a legal person.

That is, a company, foundation, or any other type of entity with its own legal personality.

On the other hand, the crime of slander is established in articles 208 and following of the Criminal Code and is defined as the performance of an action or expression that injures the dignity of another person, undermining his or her reputation or undermining his or her self-esteem.

The same article 208 qualifies that only those expressions or actions that “by their nature, effects and circumstances” are considered by the public as serious will be considered insults.

That is to say: the emphasis of the commentary, and above all, the type of expression that seriously attacks the fame or good name of the company, may be considered as insults.

Likewise, Article 208 of the Criminal Code again clarifies that insults may be considered as serious when they are made with “knowledge of their falsity or reckless disregard for the truth”.

How can I defend myself from libel and slander?

About the offenses mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, there are many companies today that suffer serious reputational crises or even harassment of members of their staff, publishing on social networks all kinds of inappropriate expressions or even incurring in slander and libel.

The first step to be able to fight these accusations will be to make a first analysis of the comments published in order to determine whether or not such expressions could be subject to the crimes of slander and libel.

If so, there are several actions prior to the filing of legal action. On the one hand, we can go to the owner of the service that provides users with this type of publications requesting their removal.

Likewise, we could send a burofax to the owner of the published comments also requesting their removal.

If all the above actions do not achieve the desired result, it would be necessary to consider the possibility of filing a criminal complaint against the authors or co-authors of such publications.

All the above actions should be taken into account with special caution so as not to provoke what is known as a Streisand effect.

Letslaw is a law firm specializing in digital law and social media.


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