What is the difference between libel and slander?

Question

What is the difference between libel and slander?

Answer

Libel and slander are both forms of the civil offense known as "defamation," which takes place when a statement brings harm to someone's reputation (that person being the subject of the statement).

The difference between the two is that libel is a defamatory statement that is written, while slander is spoken defamation. When it comes to libel, "written" can mean a number of different things, including statements that are published in the newspaper and those that are posted online. (Learn about the elements of a defamation case.)

For both forms of defamation (libel and slander), the speaker will not be liable if the statement is actually true. The rule here is that truth is an absolute defense to defamation.

So, let's say blogger Dan writes, "Paul has lost thousands of dollars playing online poker, and is getting treatment for a gambling addiction." This statement would qualify as libel if it is not true, since it could reasonably harm Paul's reputation. But if the statement is true -- if Paul has in fact lost thousands gambling online and is getting help from Gamblers Anonymous -- then there is no defamation.

by: , J.D.

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