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Libel, Slander, and Defamation: Media Law Must-Knows With Thomas Julin

By On Top of PR

“On Top of PR” podcast: Thomas Julin's image.Media has evolved into a place of opportunities where anyone can share content online. But, it has also created more ways for disinformation, libel, and slander to spread online. Negative media coverage is becoming a growing concern for companies and individuals due to this growing risk. Fortunately, there are media laws and steps you can take to defend against online attacks.


In this episode, Thomas Julin joins us to share his expertise on media law. He talks about how journalism has changed into what it is today and how this has changed the law’s approach. Tom also clarifies legal terms and shares his advice on facing negative media coverage. 


Tune into this episode to learn about media law, terms, and how you can defend against online attacks!


Watch the episode here


Listen to the episode here




Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Determine the differences between different legal terms when it comes to media.
  2. Find out what you can do against negative media coverage and incorrect information.
  3. Learn about laws and regulations that can protect you and your company.


Episode Highlights

[01:32] Get to Know Thomas Julin

  • Tom often does the defense of media work. Many companies and individuals approach him for advice regarding the different mediums.
  • In college, he was editor of the Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida where he also studied law. This brought him into the field of media and law.
  • He witnessed media evolving from the spread of newspapers to today’s rampant use of social media.
  • When he first started, cameras were being incorporated into trials. Now, individuals can post their allegations online.

Tom: “Things have changed a lot since then, and they keep changing now. We have so much in terms of social media, and so many people are able to broadcast allegations about companies and individuals themselves. So it's really a whole new ballgame now from when I first started off.”

[04:55] Journalism Today

  • The speed of processing from the work of journalists to the public has only increased. There is a demand for instant access.
  • There are still large journalism organizations that create carefully reviewed outputs.
  • Small journalism organizations are started by those looking for opportunities outside big companies. 

[06:56] Defining Libel, Slander, and Defamation

  • Libel is written, while slander is oral. Nowadays, the distinction between the two decreases.
  • Libel, slander, and defamation is a publication through various means that can harm someone’s reputation.
  • Complex factors and rules are considered in these kinds of cases.

[09:39] Defining Public Figures

  • A public figure is someone who was able to respond to charges against them through the media. They can present their side to the public without the need for a lawsuit.
  • You can be a public figure based on the person’s history and public presence.
  • More and more people are becoming public figures due to access to the internet.
  • Take into consideration what you are responding to. Injecting yourself into a public controversy can turn you into a public figure. This makes libel cases more difficult.

[16:08] Against Unethical Journalism

  • Journalists follow different ethical codes. Quite often, an organization would take action against a breach of ethics that occurred.
  • One option is to ask the journalist to take down the articles of concern.
  • You can also respond to the article and address the journalist’s breach. Nonetheless, it’s important to consult a lawyer to reduce the chances of being sued. 

[19:52] Making Mistakes in Journalism

  • Jason has observed that more corrections have come up in newspapers than before.
  • The law gives space for journalists to make mistakes. But, a call for new rules is in place to lessen the number of mistakes committed.

Jason:  “The most people that are going to see it is right now … So, it's important we get that corrected. But, unfortunately, a lot of people have that bias or that inaccurate information has been painted out there.”

  • Though the truth is released, it can be slow to catch up to the lie. Fortunately, in the long run, the truth will ultimately win out.
  • In addressing damaging articles, it’s a smart strategy to focus on urgent corrections. Avoid complicating it and respond to the bigger message first.

[25:37] The Anti-SLAPP Statute

  • The Anti-SLAPP Statute aims to protect the rights of people to comment on matters of public concern.
  • SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation.
  • A person sued for criticizing a company can utilize this statute in their defense. It also allows them to recover the fees incurred due to the lawsuit or even more.

[28:01] The Communications Decency Act

  • It is a federal statute that protects companies that operate websites. They cannot be liable for any activity that was published by others on their platform.
  • Massive companies have grown and become powerful and influential due to this.
  • Legislations arise that focus on dealing with defamatory material on social media.
  • Companies are starting to apply self-moderation in preparation for these possible regulations

Tom: “We've allowed these very large companies to have so much control over information in the United States and in the world. Maybe now's the time we need to look at changing the rules with respect to defamation actions. We need to look at imposing more regulations. 


About Tom

Thomas Julin is a lawyer at Gunster Law Firm. He is well-versed in litigation of various free speech issues. Tom has been defending newspapers, television networks, and other media industries since the start of his career. In his decades of experience, he has stood for the protection of the free flow of information. 


To this day, he continues his practice with a counsel of record for over 200 reported decisions. This notably includes Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., 131 S. Ct. 2653 (2011) on Tom’s argument that the First Amendment protects data mining and its implications. 


To find out more about Tom and his accomplishments, connect with Tom on Linkedin. You can also read more about his notable work in multiple cases on Gunster.


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Post a review and share it! If you enjoyed tuning in, then leave us a review. You can also share this with your friends and family. This episode can give you professional insight into media coverage. Know your rights and the regulations to follow when it comes to the media.


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Topics: media relations, news media, On Top of PR

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