Defamation occurs when a false statement is made which gives an entity a negative image. There are two types of defamation: slander and libel. Slander refers to malicious communication which is spoken, while libel is reserved for a printed message or image. The main difference between the two types of defamation is the medium, as slander is transitory and libel is fixed. Most states have laws in place to deter invalid, malevolent claims.
Similar to defamation is the public disclosure of harmful facts which are not of public concern and are offensive. To protect individuals, most legislatures have written false light laws which serve to protect an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. If the information transmitted is false, then it could be considered a tort of defamation. However, if the information is not false but is misleading, it could be considered a tort of false light.
In most countries, there are criminal penalties associated with defamation. The Global Campaign for Free Expression has published global maps which highlight which nations have criminal defamation laws in place. In general, the laws are used for political protection.
There are situations when derogatory statements are permissible by law. The strongest defense against defamation is if the statement can be proven true. If the statement is an opinion, it can neither be proven true or false. Therefore, a case of defamation against an opinionated claim is very weak.