I recently discussed a situation with an attorney of one company making and publishing statements of opinion about a second company. The attorney said a common defense is “Qualified Privilege.” What it means, basically, is that people of a certain status or reputation can make statements if they feel the party receiving it is “entitled to know.”
I, personally, think this is complete b.s. but do live in a country where free speech is a fundamental right. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, I feel that right like other rights can be abused and one party can damage the reputation and/ livelihood of another party.
You should be o.k. if statements you make are:
Published without malice.
Subject to the right of reply in the form of a letter that gives explanation or contradiction
It need not be contemporaneous (depending on publication), where it has to be for absolute privilege.
When making statements about any individual or company, please consider the seriousness of the allegation. The more serious the charge, the more the public is misinformed and the individual harmed if the allegation is not true.
Some basic guidelines to follow when publishing anything, including posts you make on LinkedIn, are:
• The nature of the information, and the extent to which the subject matter is of public concern.
• The source of the information. Some informants have no direct knowledge of the events. Some have their own axes to grind or are being paid for their stories.
• The steps taken to verify the information.
• The status of the information. The allegation may have already been the subject of an investigation that commands respect.
• The urgency of the matter. News is often a perishable commodity.
• Whether comment was sought from the claimant. He may have information others do not possess or have not disclosed. An approach to the claimant will not always be necessary.
• Whether the article contained the gist of the claimant’s side of the story.
• The tone of the article. A paper can raise queries or call for an investigation. It need not adopt allegations as statements of fact.
• The circumstances of the publication, including the timing.
I hope this helps anyone submitting news releases or articles about another party.
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