Cancel culture defamation
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Cancel culture often involves elements of harassment and defamation. In many cases, those who promote cancel culture through online posts, tend to attribute to their victim, thoughts, values and actions that the victim simply does not possess, rendering the posts defamatory.
In order to achieve the cancellation or the boycott of cancel culture victim, the members of the pressure groups tend to attribute to the victim, thoughts, values and actions that the victim simply does not possess. In many cases, they pervert, or manipulate the victim’s opinions so that it fits into a narrative of racism, sexism, hate or discrimination. To achieve this, they turn legitimate opinions into illegitimate ones by attributing negative, and often defamatory meanings to the victim’s views. rendering the posts defamatory.
Defamation law in England, is more concerned with the meaning of the words rather than with the words themselves. If, for example, the victim of the cancel culture has made a public statement, in a blog post or a tweet and the view they expressed was then given a different meaning by those who sought to smear them, the perverted meaning of their original words could be considered defamatory.
For example, if a celebrity, who is known for her Christian views, had posted in a blog post about her beliefs that the marriage institution has traditionally been an engagement between a man and a woman and that she still supports this view, any attempt to denounce her as homophobic, or as someone who has homophobic views, may be considered defamatory under English defamation law.
Whilst the original unfounded allegations that a particular celebrity is homophobic may be considered as defamation of character, the institution who follows up on those allegations might also be committing a wrongdoing by cancelling the celebrity or by making defamatory public statement. An example of this might be a statement that declares that due to the celebrity’s homophobic views, or due to complaints about the celebrity’s homophobic views, the institution had decided to terminate their engagement with her.
Whilst the original defamatory allegations might have started a chain of events, the victim of the cancel culture might be able to pursue legal action for defamation against both, the originator of the defamatory statement and the institution that repeated it. In fact, because the institution’s repetition of the defamatory allegations is likely to carry a greater degree of credibility and reach a far bigger audience, the liability of the institution for defamation towards the victim of the cancel culture could be far greater than that of the individual who instigated the institution’ actions.
Defamatory posts that lead to reputational and financial loss to the cancel culture victim, often are instigated by internet users or by internet trolls who hide behind a keyboard and who use a pseudonym to conceal their true identity. The same individuals might be responsible for sending or posting complaints to the institution about the cancelled victim. In most cases, it is possible, with some efforts, to unravel the identity of those individuals and to bring them to justice.
Unmasking internet trolls is nearly always possible. This is most often done with the help of a specialist solicitor who would apply for a disclosure order through the courts, which will compel social media companies, internet service providers and the receiving institution to hand over personal information of the defaming individual. In most cases, this could be done very quickly and on the legal basis that the posts might be considered defamatory later on, should the matter proceed to full legal proceedings.
If, as it is in many cases, the facts reveal that the cancelling of an individual involved defamation of character, the victim will most likely be able to reclaim her reputation by demanding that those responsible for the defamation provide a public apology and pay damages for the losses that resulted from their defamatory imputations. These might be substantial.