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Tweets and the Courts... defamation applies to the Internet

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networking web sites have made it possible for anyone with internet access to speak to the world - literally. However, a number of recent court cases have made it clear that you have to be careful what you say, because all of the laws governing defamation apply to the internet, as well as other forms of communication.

Here's what you need to know

Defamation is a false statement of fact that, either through negligence or malice, damages someone else's reputation. Spoken defamation is referred to as slander, while written defamation is known as libel.

Libel includes written internet communication. So e-mail, tweets, and posts on networking websites all pose liability risks for the authors if the information is factually false, AND harms the reputation of another person or organization.

Fact vs opinion

An opinion is not defamatory, no matter how negatively it is presented. However, the context of the communication must clearly state that the content is an opinion, and the reader must clearly understand that the statement is an opinion. Any lack of clarity regarding the intent of a statement can put the author at risk.

Insurance and defamation

Most homeowner, condominium owner, and renter policies include personal injury insurance under Coverage E - personal liability. Personal liability includes defamation. For a covered loss, the insurance carrier provides a defense and pays any resulting damages, up to the limits of the policy.

Umbrella liability insurance can extend the limits of liability.

Some exclusions do apply to the protection provided under Coverage E. If you are not clear about the rules governing defamatory statements, call us. We will help you understand libel in general, and on the internet.

Best insurance - think twice, or maybe even three times, before you hit the SEND button.

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