Victims of internet defamation can file a lawsuit, invoke their rights, and recover compensation for the defamatory conduct. The compensation that victims can recover depends on their damages, and aims to put the victim back in the position they were in, before they were defamed online.
Proving damages is a big part of a victim's internet defamation case. Those damages fall into a variety of categories:
- Compensatory damages, also known as actual damages
- Nominal damages
- Punitive damages
- Attorneys' fees
- Content removal
Compensatory, or Actual, Damages
In internet defamation cases, compensatory damages make up the lion's share of the compensation that victims stand to receive. As the name implies, compensatory damages aim to compensate the victim for what they have suffered.
There are two sub-categories of compensatory damages: Economic and non-economic damages.
A victim's economic damages are their financial losses that stemmed from the defamatory conduct. For businesses that have been defamed online, they typically include things like:
- Loss of income
- Loss of business clientele
- Expenses associated with handling the defamatory statements
Non-economic damages are the losses that stem from the defamatory conduct, but which cannot easily be stated in a dollar amount. This includes compensation for things like:
- Lost business reputation
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
Just because these types of suffering cannot be easily stated in financial terms does not mean that they did not happen. The emotional turmoil and stress of dealing with online defamation is often one of the most difficult aspects of the ordeal.
Just because internet defamation did not inflict financial suffering on the victim does not mean that it was not defamatory. In these cases, where the victim stands to recover few, if any, compensatory damages, they can still pursue nominal damages. If successful, the victim will likely recover very little money – often just one dollar – but win a court's ruling that says the statements were defamatory and false.
While most types of compensation aim to put the victim back in the place they were in, before the defamation occurred, punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer by making them pay the victim more than what the victim has suffered.
Because they are so extreme, courts will rarely award punitive damages unless there was actual malice behind the defamation.
Victims of internet defamation can also demand that the person making the false statements pay for their attorneys' fees. After all, if it were not for their defamatory statements, the victim would not have had to hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit over the online libel.
Finally, victims of online defamation can demand that the libelous statements be removed as a part of their lawsuit. Especially for businesses, removing information from news articles or deleting defamatory posts on social media is one of the primary goals of filing an online defamation lawsuit. Winning a defamation case but leaving the false statements on the internet can prolong the financial harm that they cause.