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What Are the Different Types of Defamation?

Spreading malicious rumors about a person or organization can be a form of defamation.
Showing damage to an occupational reputation is one way to prove defamation of character.
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  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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The two most common types of character defamation are slander and libel. Slander generally occurs when an individual purposely and maliciously lies about another person, or business, to cause emotional or financial harm. Libel is very similar, because the motive for making false statements is often the same, but it generally takes place in the form of publication — like in a newspaper or magazine. Libel can arise in broadcast journalism as well. Individuals who have suffered emotional pain or financial loss because of defamation can sometimes file a lawsuit against the person or media group who commits this wrongdoing.

Employee defamation can occur when a former employer knowingly makes a false statement intended to keep a past employee from finding work elsewhere. In many jurisdictions, this behavior is against the law. For example, if a prospective employer calls a previous supervisor to inquire about an applicant, and an erroneous, damaging statement is made about the individual, an accusation of slander may ensue. This is particularly harmful when the person is denied a job as a result.

Likewise, defamation may occur in the form of slander if a former employee spreads malicious rumors about an organization, or makes incredulous statements about his former boss. For example, if the ex-employee wishes to deter customers from doing business with an establishment, he may claim that the company engages in illegal activities or overcharges customers. These types of false statements could result in a substantial loss of revenue for the organization.

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If a person publishes a false and/or purposely damaging article in a local newspaper about another, then the defamation may be considered libel. Finally, Internet defamation may transpire if the person publishes such libelous statements online. In any of these cases, defamation may occur when false accusations or reports are spoken or written to cause harm to an individual, group, or establishment.

Libel can also occur when the media publishes inaccurate, mean-spirited statements about celebrities and other high-profile individuals. For example, if an entertainment publication features an article about a movie star, erroneously claiming that he or she is engaging in an extramarital affair or other scandalous claim, the publication may be guilty of libel. These deceptive statements can be the cause of significant upheavals in the lives and careers of celebrities and their families. As a result, they sometimes file lawsuits against publications that engage in these practices.

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