The most typical negative impact of a defamatory speech is damage to your professional reputation. If you're a local company owner and someone makes a false remark about you to others, implying that you did anything dishonest, your customers may go elsewhere. Even if there's no direct financial harm, false statements can still cause you emotional pain. You might feel humiliated or angered.
In some cases, defamation of character can lead to legal action, depending on the circumstances. For example, if you write something derogatory about another person and they find out about it, they have the right to sue you for libel.
Libel is defined as a written statement that tends "to injure one's honor, reputation, or property," while slander is a spoken statement that causes similar damage. In both cases, truth is a defense against liability. Thus, even true statements can be considered defamatory if they hurt your reputation.
In general, defamation is considered a serious offense with potentially serious legal consequences. Defamation can be criminal if it results in death or serious bodily injury or if it creates a risk of such harm through the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. Otherwise, it's only a crime if you make false statements about someone else to their detriment. Even then, you could be sued for defamation or accused by someone who finds out about the statement yourself.
A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact that exposes someone to hate, scorn, or contempt, causes him to be ostracized, or harms his company or trade. While you cannot harm a company's "reputation," you may harm it by denigrating its goods or services. A defamatory statement can also be one that tends to injure someone's honor, reputation, or dignity. These statements can affect how others view the person involved and thus could cause him economic loss.
Statements can be defamatory if they attack a person's character, such as:
A Statements that accuse someone of being guilty of a crime;
B Statements that imply that a person has sexual relations with animals;
C Statements that portray a person as dishonest or immoral;
D Statements that suggest that a person is a liar;
E Statements that call into question a person's competence in his profession.
Facts are not defamatory unless they make other people dislike someone or think badly of him. For example, saying that John Doe is an honest man would not be defamatory because everyone knows he is honest, but saying that John Doe is a dirty man might be defamatory because others might believe it is true.
If someone writes or says anything untrue about you with the goal of slandering or hurting your reputation, they have defamed your character, which is a felony. However, establishing this offense in court might be challenging. Slander is a form of slanderous comment made about you that is uttered. Slander can be written or spoken and includes statements made in print or on television, radio, online, or in other media. Slander requires only one person to whom it is communicated for it to be actionable; therefore, if you can prove that anyone other than the speaker said something negative about you, you have a case.
In English law, there are two kinds of libel: direct and indirect. Direct libel is written material that accuses someone of committing a crime and is printed or published without legal excuse. Indirect libel involves written material that attacks someone's character, such as the character of an ordinary man, by attributing to him characteristics or acts that he does not possess. Libel is also divided into three forms: true, false, and defamatory. Only true and false statements are actionable as defamation. Defamation includes any statement that tends to injure someone's reputation, which may be true or false. Thus, statements that accuse someone of being guilty of a crime or making allegations against them that they have not committed are also defamatory.
Under English law, there is no specific definition of defamation.
There are, however, constraints to free expression in the United States, one of which being anti-defamation legislation. Defamation includes any words that make someone else seem bad in the eyes of the public. Most of the time, a defamatory comment must be untrue in order for the courts to deem it illegal. However, under some conditions, it may be deemed legal if the statement is found to have been made with malice or negligence.
In the case of Yelp, they do have an anti-defamation policy that can be found here that states "Yelp does not permit its users to post defamatory comments." While this may seem obvious, it is important to note that even if you believe your comment is true and provided it meets other requirements, it can still be considered defamation if others disagree with you about its truthfulness.
If you are sued over a review on Yelp, there are several things that could happen depending upon what type of review it is and who is doing the suing. If the statement is found to be false, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are used to punish wrongdoers and serve as a warning to others not to repeat such actions. If the statement is determined to be true, but falls under an exception to the defamation law (such as fair criticism), then you would not be liable. Finally, if you cannot prove that the statement was true, but cannot prove that it was false either, then you would win at trial.