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Why is there a difference between libel and slander?

The gulf between libel and slander was not always as wide as it is today. Libel was originally thought of as just one type of slander that could be committed. While that's still somewhat true today, there is a definite division in the courts.

The difference between the two, on the surface, seems relatively simple. If something is spoken or communicated through gestures, it is considered slander. If it has been written down or printed, it is considered libel.

The reason that courts look at this in two different ways is that libel is thought to cause more harm to the victim. Slander often does not spread as far. Something that has been spoken has a constricted audience, and it may be quickly forgotten. It can still be a lie and could be damaging, but the scope of that damage is also limited.

Libel, though, can last for a long time. Written records can spread and be passed around. They can be read even after the claim has been proven inaccurate, and those who are hearing about it for the first time -- and who don't know it's inaccurate -- can still be swayed by it.

In some cases, libel can be so damaging that it sways public opinion for good, and people may not even stop believing the claims when they are shown to be false. The way that myths circulate on the Internet, swaying the masses, shows how problematic this can be for business owners, politicians, artists, and many others.

Those who have been victimized by either slander or libel may have suffered damages as a result. It's important to know what type of compensation can be sought and which type of case to use in Alberta.

Source: Quick and Dirty Tips, "What's the Difference Between Libel and Slander?," Adam Freedman, accessed June 24, 2016

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