Defamation Law

Everything you need to know about defamation law if you’re a consent activist

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Class Details

1.5 hours

It is increasingly common for consent violators to use defamation lawsuits to silence their accusers. This abuse of the legal system can be devastatingly effective: even a groundless lawsuit can cost upwards of $10,000 to defend against. Defamation lawsuits are a serious threat to anyone who does consent activism as well as anyone who simply wants to name their abuser.

This in-depth class will give you the information you need to understand the threat posed by defamation lawsuits and to minimize your exposure to them. We’ll begin by talking about how defamation law works, with a focus on the three central elements of a defamation case. We’ll also discuss what happens during a lawsuit and explore some related legal topics like false light, publication of private facts, and extortion.

Our focus is on providing actionable guidance to people doing defamation work, so much of the class will cover specific strategies and techniques for incorporating defamation awareness into your practice. We’ll talk about best practices for writing a defamation-resistant public statement and will explore strategies like pre-publication review, common interest privilege, and consent to publication. Finally, we’ll discuss the rare situations when filing a defamation lawsuit is an appropriate course of action and provide specific guidelines for doing so in an ethical fashion.

The class includes an extensive written guide that covers all the class topics in detail.

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Defamation lawsuits have become a serious threat to anyone who does consent activism. A completely groundless lawsuit can cost upward of $10,000 to defend against, and abusers are increasingly turning to lawsuits to silence their accusers.

We are indebted to Bruce Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine, who has generously shared his decades of experience practicing defamation law with us. This guide would not have been possible without his guidance and technical advice, but any mistakes are strictly ours.

Module 1: Understanding the Law

The legal system is complicated, and what you want the law to say may be very different from what it actually says. In this section we’ll review some basic legal principles and take a deep look at how defamation law works.

Module 2: Lawsuits

In this chapter we’ll talk about what happens during a lawsuit and explore some options for fighting back if you’re the victim of a malicious suit.

Module 3: Responding to Threats

What should you do if someone threatens to sue you? It depends on the situation.

Module 4: Making a Statement

Statements are one of your most powerful tools as a consent activist, whether you’re making a public call out or privately warning a venue owner about a dangerous instructor. But making a statement is the most dangerous thing you can do from a defamation perspective.

Module 5: Consent is a Team Sport

Building consent-forward communities requires community-level action. So does fighting back against defamation lawsuits. Let’s look at three specific strategies that organizations and communities can implement.


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