Media Mayhem and ADversity
Risk Management for Advertising, Design, and Media Professionals

What Ad Agencies Should Know about Online Defamation Laws

It's never been easier to commit libel or slander. Not only do we live an extremely sensitive society that's prone to lawsuits, but the simplicity of online publishing means you can go from zero to online defamation lawsuit in the blink of an eye.

As an advertising or media professional, these issues strike directly at the heart of your business. With online advertising making up almost one-quarter of all marketing budgets, you need to be prepared for online defamation liabilities. To help you understand these risks, let's look at three basic questions.

Three Basic Questions about Online Defamation Laws

1. What Is Online Defamation?

Online defamation is a catchall term that can refer to reputational damage someone suffers as a result of something you said, posted, tweeted, or published publicly online. These injuries include libel and slander (i.e., when someone claims you've inaccurately disparaged them or their business).

For a more thorough explanation of defamation law, see our eBook chapter "Defamation and Media Liability: Why Media Firms Need to Worry about Reputational Lawsuits."

2. What Insurance Covers Libel, Slander, Online Defamation, and Advertising Injuries?

For most ad agencies and graphic designers, Errors and Omissions Insurance may cover their online defamation lawsuit cost. Here's how it works.

If you're sued for defamation because of something you designed, wrote, or published for a client, E&O Insurance (also known as Media Malpractice Insurance) may cover your…

  • Courts costs.
  • Attorney fees.
  • Settlements and judgments (including damages to the party you disparaged).

Some General Liability Insurance policies may cover your professional defamation risks, but this is usually the exception. It's always important to check with your insurance agent about the specifics of your coverage.

3. How Can Ad Agencies Prevent Online Defamation Suits (and Be Protected from Them)?

Whether you run an SEO agency or a more traditional print-ad firm, you can't avoid social media. How do you prevent posting something ill-advised, and then finding yourself embroiled in an online defamation suit?

  • Think twice and always tweet nice. Some businesses institute a five-minute rule. You write a tweet, it sounds funny-great-charming, but wait five minutes to post it. You can also make sure all employees show their posts to at least one other employee for editing and reality-checking before posting it.
  • Monitor, block, and curate comments. While you want to interact with customers online, if someone is "trolling" you or harassing other users, don't be afraid to block them or delete insulting posts. These things can tailspin, so it's best to nip a problem in the bud.
  • Invest in media liability insurance. As we saw above, E&O Insurance can help protect you from the cost of online defamation cases. Invest in this insurance and avoid coverage lapses.

If you're looking for online defamation insurance today, you can use our easy online application or browse sample insurance quotes for ad agencies.

Customer Rating 4.9 out of 5
Read Customer Reviews

Grab-n-Go Information

Free Media Liability eBook
Managing Media Liability - How to Protect Your Business from Your Clients' Bad Judgment
Browse eBook
Sample certificates
See a sample Certificate of Liability Insurance, the proof of coverage you need for most contracts.
View Sample
Sample Quotes & Cost Estimates
See what insurance really costs: actual quotes by policy & specialty.
Get Estimates
Ask A Question
Submit your questions about small business insurance and get answers from our experts.
Read Answers