If you were the subject of a false or less-than-flattering news story, chances are you are embarrassed (and possibly infuriated). Your first thought was probably, “How can I remove this article from google?” or “Can I make them publish a retraction?” You might even be wondering if you have a case for a defamation or libel lawsuit.
Most clients who contact our firm about removing online news articles want to know if they can sue the news outlet who published the story. In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no.
News media outlets are difficult to sue because they have many legal protections. News outlets generally have the following defenses and privileges at their disposal:
- The Substantial Truth Doctrine;
- The Fair Report Privilege;
- Statute of Limitations;
- The Wire Service Defense;
- Opinion & Fair Comment and Criticism Privilege;
- The Newsworthiness Defense to Invasion of Privacy Claims;
- Historical Accuracy of Arrests and Criminal Charges.
In this article, we will describe each of these defenses, with examples from actual cases. We will also share some insight into ways that online news content may be removed or suppressed from Google.
Before we dive into the privileges available to news media defendants, I will start with a review of libel – the legal concept typically at play.
What is Libel?
When people contact us about suing a news outlet, they are usually concerned about libel. Put simply, libel is a form of defamation expressed in writing that injures a person’s reputation. If a person publishes a false statement about you and it injures your reputation or hurts your business, you may be a victim of libel.
All U.S. states have civil libel statutes and 13 states have