False Light Vs. Defamation – What Is The Difference Between Defamation & False Light


Be it defamation, or false light, both of these scenarios are enough to spoil your reputation. They are, of course, legally offensive. Not only that, but they are also significant indicators of your privacy invasion. 

Both these events differ slightly in technicality. But the crime to both these events is that events are supposedly committed by unhinged people who do not heed others’ feelings. So, let’s have a look at their consequences.

What Is Defamation?

What is Defamation?


When you present a written, or oral communication about someone that is not true and enough to spoil their reputation, it is called defamation. Two types of defamation are there, such as slander and libel. If you want to sue someone for defamation, you cannot simply state it is false and be done with it. There are some steps to follow here.

  1. You must provide evidence that will prove the statement as false.
  2. The statement must be published by a third party.
  3. The speaker must have made a mistake to justify the false statement somehow.
  4. Someone suffers a severe injury due to the false claim of the statement
  5. The legal statement was privileged.

What Is A False Light?

The privacy tort of false light is similar to the privacy tort of defamation. If someone presents misleading information about you that leads to your misleading portrayal, that will be false light. Now, if you want to sue someone for false light, the consideration will vary from defamation. 

  1. You have to prove that the defendant published some misinformation about the plaintiff or vice versa.
  2. The statement must be highly offensive.
  3. The statement must be highly embarrassing to people with reasonable sensibilities.
  4. The speaker must have published the information without verifying its details.
  5. The speaker must have published the information with reckless disregard of others’ sensibilities. 

What Are The Differences Between Defamation, And False Light?

A defamation lawsuit will protect a person who has suffered a stigma in their reputation. On the other hand, a false light case will protect a person from unjustified embarrassment or offense. Apart from these, there are some other differences between these two phenomena as well.

The Difference In The Targeted Person

Defamation generally happens when someone publishes misleading information about another individual. However, false light occurs when someone publishes incorrect details on a large group. That’s why people regard the false light statements as a public disclosure because they generally target a business entity or other large group of people.

The Difference In The Statement’s Context

Defamation statements don’t need to be offensive or embarrassing. They simply need to be false so that the person targeted in the information suffers a reputational scandal. On the contrary, the false light statements have to be embarrassing or offensive. 

The Difference In Disregard To People’s Sensibility

In defamation, the statements are not required to be made with utter disregard to someone’s sensibility. I mean, it can be made in such a way, but that’s not the only criteria here. You are only required to follow the requirements of the person you are making the false statement against as a public figure. However, you must complete the false statement with utter disregard to someone’s sensibility in a false light of information. 

The Difference In The Position Of Truth

Truth changes the defamation claim completely. However, the fact impacts the false light claims in a different way. You may not use the defendant’s true statement to save the plaintiff if it causes some false implications. Moreover, if the defendant’s claim proves the false light claim as accurate, it will act as evidence. 

Let’s Look At Some Examples Of Defamation And False Light

In a significant context, when you post wrong information about someone, that is defamation. For example, it is defamation if you publish a false statement about a person on a social networking site. Likewise, if you happen to send an email about a person to someone else containing incorrect information, that is also defamation. 

But, false light claims happen when someone misrepresents your ideas or your beliefs. They don’t need to tarnish your reputation per se, but rather your ideals which is more offensive in a way. For example, if a news article about sex offenders includes your smiling picture, it will prove that you are happily endorsing this criminal conduct. Likewise, if an employee posts a false statement about a company going bankrupt on Facebook, that will also be false light.

Also Read: What Does A Family Law Lawyer Do?

How To Avoid False Light Claims?

This column is going to interest you if you are a journalist. As a journalist, we often have to bring trending news to people’s attention. But, sometimes, we must think about all the consequences if we don’t want to get any false light lawsuit on our companies.

Always remember people can sue you for the false claims that arise on the margin of stories rather than their core. So, in a way false light lawsuit is far more dangerous than a defamation lawsuit. You must check all your facts before you publish the news. It may happen that a statement that seems harmless to you is hampering one of your readers. If you have relevant evidence to support your claim, document that in the news as well.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

As we have differentiated between defamation and false light, we think some questions are still left unanswered. So, let’s look at those now.

1: Does A Defamation Statement, And A False Light Statement Have Nothing In Common?

Ans: Of course, they have some features in common. In both cases, the statements have to be false. Both the comments have to be addressed to a third party. Moreover, both the accounts have to hamper someone in a way.

2: Does The Defendant Stay At A More Advantageous Position In Defamation Than False Light?

Ans: Yes, the defendant stays in a more advantageous position in defamation than in false light. Since a false light claim targets a large group of people and some facts may be true, it is more complex. But, in defamation, the claims are indeed false, so the defendant stays more secure.

3: Can You Sue Someone For Slander Defamation?

Ans: No, you cannot sue someone for lander defamation. But you can sue that person for libel defamation indeed. It is not so much a crime like a false light, but it is more like a tort. 

The Bottom Line

If you have read this far, I am sure I have interested you in some vital information. Usually, people confuse defamation and false light a lot, so I thought it’s time to shed light on this matter. Now, we have indeed clarified that both of these phenomena contain false statements; their implications differ. So, if you want to avoid the false claim lawsuit, follow the suggestions that we mentioned earlier. If you have other questions regarding the post, comment them down below.

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