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Social Media Defamation Lawsuits Multiplying

Social media may have a greater impact on the legal system due to defamation lawsuits, not threats or harassment, according to Vincent Gautrais, who holds the Université de Montréal Chair in e-security and e-business law. This conclusion is based on a recent study examining criminal activity on the Internet, where it was found that 15 percent of all Canadian and U.S. Internet-based rulings were on defamation cases. In France, it’s 49 percent and in Quebec it’s more than 10 percent.

“We often tend to believe that the Internet has increased the risk of threats and harassment, but that isn’t true,” says Gautrais. “It is defamation cases that have increased exponentially with the arrival of social media.”

My take: I have no doubt that defamation cases are on the rise due to social media and other web-based outlets. Those most likely to bring defamation claims, however, aren't the average Joes but businesses and individuals who have the resources to protect their public image. Also, the average Joes might have more trouble proving the legal element of harm necessary to win a defamation claim.

So if Gautrais is suggesting that defamation occurs on the Internet more often than threats and harassment, he has a ways to go before I'm convinced. The threatened and harassed might just choose to respond in a way other than using the legal system.

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