What is Libel?

Since everybody that writes for Associated Content writes for the Internet, it is important to understand that there are laws against libel. However, it is also important to understand that there is a right to free speech and as long as a person’s reputation is not hurt by what is
written, then what was written cannot truly be considered libel.

Libel falls under defamation laws. There are two main categories of defamation laws. Those are libel and slander. Libel is when written defamation occurs. Slander is when spoken defamation occurs.

A great way to remember this is that libel is literature and slander is speech. That way the initial letters match each term used.

In the United States, libel laws were established after the the 1734 case of journalist John Peter Zenger against Governor William Cosby of New York. Cosby has Zenger jailed for criticizing him in his newspaper. However, Zenger was found not guilty because everything he had published was based on fact.

There is a lot of speculation going on at Associated Content about libel when it comes to Samantha Cumming’s article about Shirley Lowery.

The majority of her article is based on facts from wikisposure. There is obviously nothing wrong with using these quotes.

It is true that many of these things are not truly nice to say about a person. However, it is a good question to wonder about who would not think Lowery had not lost her mind at some point. All it takes is one reading of the wikisposure page to see why Cummings would write such things.

Lowery could try to sue, but it would not be worth it.

The other things posted by Cummings are opinions. Many people probably agree. There are probably those few in the minority who don’t.

However, given the nature of the article, it is obvious that what Cummings has said is posted as an opinion and not given as facts. Nowhere in the article does it state that Lowery is on any certain type of medications or has any certain type of mental disease. All the things written are from wikisposure and are founded to be true to the best of knowledge.

Thus, Cummings’s article is definitely not libel like some have said.

It is also important to know that libel laws are a little bit looser when it comes to public figures (figures in the government and celebrities). This is because in the 1964 case, New York Co. vs. Sullivan, two rules were added. The first is that a statement that
may seem to be libel is not going to be found libelous if it is fair comment and criticism. The second is that the publisher had to have knowledge that the statement printed was false and that it was published with reckless disregard to if it was false or not for the statement to be found libelous.

So, anybody has the right to write “George W. Bush is an idiot.” Anybody has the right to write “George W. Bush is a genius.” Anybody has the right to write, “George W. Bush was clearly out of his mind when he sent the troops to Iraq” just as much as anybody has the right to write, “George W. Bush made the best decision when he sent the troops to Iraq.”

Even if somebody tried to sue Cumming for libel, it would not hold up in a court. She obvious published her opinion. While Lowery is not truly a public figure, she is public enough that this would be considered fair comment and criticism.

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