Okay, so, basically, I want to make a blog about ripping on people. And it's not like just ripping because ripping but I really want to point out flaws in works/people/attitudes/technology/decisions and whatever.

I don't really care about people commenting "oh, you're moron, you're so and so, go kill yourself"

What I do care about is this:

If I say company X is full of morons who have no idea what they are doing is there any legal ground for them to come after me? Like I said, I could not care less about people insulting me, I only care about legal troubles/lawsuits and hairy stuff like that.

Is there any reason for me to worry about that?

  • 5
    What country is this?
    – cpast
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:56
  • 2
    The tort you would be at risk of committing is called "libel." After reading about that is and looking at existing Q&A on the subject do you have a specific question?
    – feetwet
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:56
  • @cpast Lithuania, I'd like to rip mostly on stuff based on US Feb 11, 2016 at 18:21
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    In the US at least, truth is an absolute defense against defamation. Whether your opinion is demonstrably true may be another matter.
    – phoog
    Feb 11, 2016 at 18:27
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    @underscore_d I had trouble logging in first time from old account, now it werked Feb 12, 2016 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


There are two common defenses to defamation (there are others):

  1. That what you said is true.
  2. That what you said cannot be reasonably interpreted as a factual claim.

If after examining the totality of the circumstances, a fact-finder (judge or jury) sees your statement to be an expression of opinion rather than a factual claim about the subject, you would not be found to have defamed the subject.

The opinion defence doesn't have a bright line rule. In your example, I think it is clearly on the side of opinion. However, if you were to say something like "Douglas Dunce, Apple's Chief Engineer, has an IQ of 76", that would be almost certainly be deemed a factual claim.

The leading case here is Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co. The court held that "statements that cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts about an individual are protected".

Other summaries of this defence:

  • 2
    Regarding your IQ 76 example - is there not also an element that the claims be believable by a reasonable person? I mean, if I claim that a plumber I know eats three live kittens for breakfast every morning, that is a specific (probably false) claim that would probably damage the plumber's reputation in the eyes of anyone who believed my claim. If I claim that about my plumber, does the plumber have a defamation case? I doubt it.
    – Patrick87
    Feb 11, 2016 at 19:28
  • @Patrick87 It is a case-by-case examination, and the judgement is made by the fact-finder based on the totality of the circumstances.
    – user3851
    Feb 11, 2016 at 19:30
  • @Patrick87 And yes, the whole point of the opinion/fact determination is to decide whether the statement could be "reasonably interpreted to be a statement of fact". Factors that are looked at include (1) "the specific language used"; (2) "whether the statement is verifiable"; (3) "the general context of the statement"; and (4) "the broader context in which the statement appeared."
    – user3851
    Feb 11, 2016 at 19:39
  • I guess my question then is really whether "statement of fact" really means "true statement of fact" or just "statement which is objectively true or false". I have a hard time believing an obviously false statement can be construed as defamation and so I tend to favor the former reading. Perhaps that has more to do with whether the reputation is actually damaged or not? If nobody believes defamation there would be no damage to the reputation.
    – Patrick87
    Feb 11, 2016 at 19:42
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    @msh210 The statement has to be proven true in order to use truth as a defence. Good faith is a different defence and not as easy as the truth defence.
    – user3851
    Feb 11, 2016 at 22:36

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