LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Arguing from behind a keyboard has become commonplace online, but the comment section can cross a line and become defamation.
Defamation is the legal term for posting a knowingly false statement about someone and presenting it as a fact that harms their reputation.
Furman Ceaser said he has had people spread lies about him online.
“It’s almost like guilty until proven innocent,” Ceaser reminds social media users.
We asked local attorney Kilburn Landry is action can be taken against those making such posts. He has met with clients about defamation on social media and advises people to not engage.
“Responding to it can only ever fan the flames,” Landry said. “The more times somebody comments on a post, the more times those comments keep coming up on your wall.”
Landry said keep a screenshot that shows the date, time, how many likes, shares, and views it has, and any messages or calls received about the post.
"You want to show all those things that came to you as a result of a defamatory post," Landry said.
Landry said in order to pursue legal action, the defamation has to reach a standard level.
“If somebody said about me that I stole a candy bar. It is potentially defamatory, but the nature of that accusation is such that somebody believes I stole a candy bar,” Landry said. “Whereas the more serious the crime you allege someone committed, up to things like murder, robbery, things like that, the more serious the crime, the more damaging it is to somebody.”
He said people should not post things they can’t verify.
“Apply what I call the grandma rule,” Ceaser said. “If you’re posting something, think about if you’d want your grandmother to see what you’re posting about somebody. We must live in a very boring world if you have to make up lies about someone."
“Freedom of speech has always been a cornerstone of who we are as a nation,” Landry said. “What we do not have is the absolute right to spread false and damaging information that hurts our neighbors.”