Comment by: Cory Batza
44 PEPP. L. REV. 429 (2017)
Defamatory comments on social media have become commonplace. When the online community is outraged by some event, social media users often flood the Internet with hateful and false comments about the alleged perpetrator, feeling empowered by their numbers and anonymity. This wave of false and harmful information about an individual’s reputation has caused many individuals to lose their jobs and suffer severe emotional trauma.
This Comment explores whether the target of social media backlash can bring a successful defamation claim against the users who have destroyed their reputations on and offline. Notably, one of the biggest hurdles these plaintiffs will face is the public figure doctrine, which requires public figures to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defamatory statements were made with actual malice, a much higher standard than the usual negligence standard. This Comment concludes that courts should hold that the average social media user does not meet the public figure test and therefore only needs to prove the defamatory social media posts were made negligently.