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Defamation is the act of making a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, or entity. It can be in written form (libel) or spoken form (slander). When individuals are falsely accused of something, they are likely to suffer financial and emotional losses due to the harm caused by defamation.
Generally speaking, for a statement to be considered defamatory it must contain an untrue statement about someone’s character or behavior that is made with malicious intent. For example, if someone were to spread rumors about another person's alleged criminal activity or lack of professional competency without any evidence to support their claims, it would likely be considered defamatory.
However, there are certain types of statements that are not considered defamation even if they’re false and maliciously stated. These include statements made in good faith such as opinion-based statements or statements made under privilege--such as those made during judicial proceedings.
In addition, truth is an absolute defense against defamation claims. If a factual claim can be proven true, then it cannot be considered defamation regardless of how hurtful the statement may have been.
Depending on the severity and extent of damage done by defamatory remarks, plaintiffs may also sue for punitive damages over and above compensatory damages.