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Do You Need Libel Insurance for Your Angry Tweets?

So we all like to vent online, and Twitter provides a worldwide platform for some epic rants. Look no further than our Commander in Chief for evidence of that. Given that the targets of those rants are people, and that when we're venting we tend to invent or at least exaggerate some negative aspects of those people, we run the risk of libel.

And anywhere there is risk, insurance is sure to follow. While libel insurance was once standard practice only among journalists, more and more laytweeters are looking into Twitter libel insurance policies.

Online Libel

"It's something that, because of where social media has gone, has made this a much different issue than it would've been however many years ago," Allstate's vice president of homeowners insurance Laurie Pellouchoud told Bloomberg. The company's umbrella policies, which run you about $33 a month provides up to $1 million in coverage, include libel insurance. "We provide that defense for you to go through the specifics of the case, whether the suit is valid, what the damages might be or might not be."

So how do you know if a Twitter libel claim is valid? The elements of a defamation claim are:

  • A false statement of fact about a person;
  • That is published; and
  • Harms the person's reputation.

Libel is a written form defamation, whereas slander is spoken.

Tweet Storm

There are defenses to libel: that your statement was true; that your statement was your opinion, rather than an assertion of fact; and, if the statement was regarding a public figure, that you didn't tweet with the knowledge it was false or in reckless disregard for the truth.

But, of course, some of us just can't help ourselves, and can't be bothered with the esoteric legalese of libel laws before hitting "Tweet." So perhaps a good libel insurance policy is worth the few bucks a month just in case someone decides to get litigious. And for those of you without insurance, you might want to contact a good lawyer.

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