I’ve been doing research on this topic for awhile, not just because it interests me, but it has some applicability to my situation.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. Seek the advice of a practicing attorney if you have questions about this issue.
The short and simple answer is: Yes. Can he or she prove libel or defamation if the content is true?: Rarely, if ever. It is incredibly difficult.
My conclusions come from the prestigious Digital Media Law Project.
Under the Project’s FAQ section, here is some helpful information:
“In order to be actionable, a defamatory statement must be “of and concerning” the plaintiff. This means that a defamation plaintiff must show that a reasonable person would understand that the statement was referring to him or her. Of course, if a blog post or online article identifies the plaintiff by name, this requirement will be easily met. The plaintiff need not be specifically named, however, if there are enough identifying facts that any (but not necessarily every) person reading or hearing it would reasonably understand it to refer to the plaintiff. For example, a statement that “a local policeman who recently had an auto accident had been seen drinking alcohol while on duty” would likely be actionable because the policeman could be identified based on his recent accident.”
Also, I found this section useful:
Publishing Personal and Private Information
“When you publish information about someone without permission, you potentially expose yourself to legal liability even if your portrayal is factually accurate. Most states have laws limiting your ability to publish private facts about someone and recognizing an individual’s right to stop you from using his or her name, likeness, and other personal attributes for certain exploitative purposes, such as for advertising goods or services. These laws originally sprang from a policy objective of protecting personal privacy; the aim was to safeguard individuals from embarrassing disclosures about their private lives and from uses of their identities that are hurtful or disruptive of their lives. Over time, the law developed and also recognized the importance of protecting the commercial value of a person’s identity — namely, the ability to profit from authorizing others to use one’s name, photograph, or other personal attributes in a commercial setting.”
– Don’t use actual names, pictures, social media accounts, or other identifiable information.
– Make sure you are clear when expressing an opinion or have tangible proof of the facts (court transcripts, public record, etc.). Again, don’t use attributable names.
– STICK TO THE FACTS!
– Don’t try and profit from your story.
– Evaluate if your state can hold you liable for the publishing of private facts. There is no legal claim available in my state.
-Congress granted interactive services of all types, including blogs, forums, and listservs, immunity from tort liability so long as the information is provided by a third party (Digital Media Law Project)
Hope this helps!