What is Slander? – Mass Media Law 101

slander-Storm Troopers

What is slander? Well, slander is a heck of a thing, it can cause friends to hate one another, companies to sue each other and tabloids to go to court. So what is slander? According to Google it is as simple as:

the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.
“he is suing the TV network for slander”
  • a false and malicious spoken statement.
    plural noun: slanders
    “I’ve had just about all I can stomach of your slanders”
verb: slander; 3rd person present: slanders; past tense: slandered; past participle: slandered; gerund or present participle: slandering
  1. 1.
    make false and damaging statements about (someone).
    Slander hating

As it would turn out, slander has been around for since the dawn of time! Seriously, think of your favorite and oldest story that you loved as a child, someone slandered someone.  The New York Times published an article as early as March 10th, 1883 of a woman in Springfield Mass. She is suing a priest for slander. Supposedly the priest denounced the women’s actions of given up her seat in church. The women sued him for 10,000 dollars. Even then was it very dangerous for a person to slander one’s name. The damages of slander have been known to cause punitive actions, and no where is that more true than in the Media world.

NY Times 1883

In the case of Bartnicki versus Vopper, a media outlet employee was tried for airing a private tape of a labor official worker speaking with union workers. The prosecutor said that the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) was violated. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 was enacted by the United States Congress to extend government restrictions on wire taps from telephone calls to include transmissions of electronic data by computer. The court ruled that the radio station was not at fault. The outcome was that it is not a crime for a media outlet to air a video or audio illegally acquired by a third party. The first amendment was not broken here; the media outlet is able to air whatever they acquire as long as it’s not blasphemous.

homer-and-apu-picture hidden camera

 From Hollywood, we hear about slander all the time; it is usually called deformation. Deformation, which can be something else, or the same as slander, is the act of harming someone’s or something’s public image, its all relative. We will look forward into deformation in a new post.

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