[Wikipedia-l] German anti-free speech law and Helga

lcrocker at nupedia.com lcrocker at nupedia.com
Mon Aug 26 22:16:38 UTC 2002

>"Slander" in the US has to meet a /very/
>>difficult burden of proof: the speech has to be (1)
>>false, (2) deliberately maclicious, (3) cause actual
>>harm, and (4) credible, and presented as fact.
> Not quite. There is libel and slander. Different rules for each.
> There is criminal slander as in the Colorado law. And civil
> slander. Truth is not always a defense.

Yes, yes, I'm simplifying for the benefit of a foreign audience
to give the gist of the subject.  There's also different rules
for different media (newspapers can get away with more than
magazines, for instance).  But the general rules are as I outlined.
"Truth" /is/ always a defense to both slander and libel, but it
is an "affirmative" defense (meaning the burden of proof is on
the defendant), and it may not be a defense to those other torts
like intentional infliction of emotional distress, and it may not
be an "absolute" defense (i.e., the judge may rule that all the
other factors combined outweigh it)--but that's a /very/ rare thing,
and very likely to be overturned on appeal.

Like everything in the US, state law also complicates the matter,
but in general, state laws more restrictive than outlined above
are routinely overturned. Texas's "veggie libel" law, for example.
I'm sure the Colorado law you mentioned would suffer a similar
fate if it ever got as far as a US district court.

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