Suppose someone said, "X looks like someone with a venereal disease." That is known as a simile.

Now "X has a venereal disease" would constitute defamation (if untrue). But the statement was "X looks like..."

In the United States would the following, or other defenses hold: 1) "X looks like..." is a statement of opinion rather than fact, and therefore not defamatory?" 2) An expert (e.g medical) witness testifies that a picture of X looks like that of someone with a (certain) venereal disease, whether or not s/he actually has it?"

How about the United Kingdom, where defamation laws are more plaintiff-friendly?

1 Answer 1


If a factual statement is implied, rather than explicit, it can still constitute defamation. "T looks like a thief" may be an expression of opinion ("I think that T might be a thief") or it might be a slightly oblique way of saying "T is a thief". That would ultimately be a matter for the finder of fact, often a jury in the , to determine.

See HG.org,s page on "Defamation by Implication"

The article "Libel and Slander 101: Defamation By Implication" by Daniel R. Warner of RM Warner, a lawyer specializing in Internet defamation, among other kinds of cases, cites and discusses as cases where US coiurts have upheld defamation by implication:

  • Kendall v. Virgin Island Daily News in March 2013. (3rd Circuit) Plaintiff was a public figure and had to show actual malice, defendants were a reporter and a newspaper;

  • Woods v. Evansville Press Co: (7th Circuit). The Court held that "an implied statement, just as a statement made in direct language, can be defamatory."

  • Newton v. National Broadcasting, Co.:

  • And just to circle around to the question in the OP, one can imagine circumstances when the OP quote "X looks like someone with a venereal disease." would imply a factual statement, but usually it wouldn't.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 16, 2021 at 23:32

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