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Chit-chat is slander

by on 1 Sep, 2008

Bulletin board comment on the Internet may be covered by slander under English and Welsh law not libel. That’s a recent ruling by Mr Justice Eady in the High Court.
They “are rather like contributions to a casual conversation which people simply note before moving on,” he ruled.

Slander, apart from in four instances, demands that the claimant proves special damage. Special damage means actual loss of money or damage capable of being quantified in money terms. Unlike libel where the claimant does not have to prove damage. So slander cases are harder to prove than libel cases.

The four instances where the claimant does not have to prove special damage are:
• If the defendant said or implied that the claimant performed a criminal act for which the punishment could be imprisonment;
• If the claimant was said to have certain contagious diseases;
• If the defendant said of a woman that she was unchaste; or
• If the remarks were to disparage a person in any office, profession, calling, trade or business.

Eady did not rule out all blogging from libel. But where the comments are in a context of “a certain amount of repartee or ‘give and take’” then there is no libel but only slander, he ruled.

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