Type carefully — you could be sued over a nasty, hurtful Facebook post
Call it a sign of the times.
People are writing all kinds of wild and crazy things on Facebook and other social media sites these days — and occasionally there’s a lawsuit that’s filed as a result.
Sometimes this kind of libel suit can cost you big time, but according to New Jersey defense attorney Greg Gianforcaro, many social libel suits wind up being dismissed by the court because certain conditions are not met.
He said judges in these types of cases tend to give a lot of latitude when it comes to libel because “there are a lot of people posting things on Facebook, and some of them are not too kind.”
But not all harsh statements are defamatory: “You may have your feelings hurt but that’s not enough to prove a defamation case,” Gianforcaro said.
He said in order for this kind of suit to be successful, “you really have to show that there was a loss of your reputation, or damage to your reputation, meaning that there was money damages ... and that’s not necessarily an easy thing to prove.” .
He stressed in some situations a libel case clear-cut — for instance if someone falsely accuses you in written post of committing some kind of crime, but many times “when you’ve got a situation where your feelings have been hurt ... you’re not going to win a defamation suit.”
He pointed out “hurt feelings and embarrassment do not satisfy the actual element of harm in any defamation type of suit.”
Gianforcaro said what you have to prove is an individual or individuals reading the social media post “changed their opinion of me, and as a result of that I lost money, or I lost business.”
Another type of suit can also be filed, where intentional infliction of emotional distress is alleged — and in that situation you have to prove someone’s conduct was intentional or reckless, plus "you’ve got to show the conduct is extreme and outrageous. It must be so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.”
The bottom line, said the attorney, is “you’re not going to win in a libel or slanderous situation or defamatory situation just because your feelings were hurt.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.