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"Is falsely branding someone a child molester in an online forum, grounds for a defamation suit?"
Not only is it slander, libel, and defamation of character, but the person who is the subject of these defamatory comments does not even have to prove damages; the fact that the false statements related to a crime are damages enough. Here are the requirements in lawsuits for slander (verbally communicated false statements), libel (defamatory statements communicated in writing) and defamation of character:
1. The statements are false;
2. The person making these statements knew they were false, or they were made with reckless disregard to their truthfulness;
3. The person "published" these statements - "Publish" means to communicate them to a third person;
4. (a) In ordinary defamation of character lawsuits, the plaintiff must show that he suffered damages, i.e., that as a result of the defamatory statements, his reputation was ruined in the community.
(b) Where the subject of the defamatory statements is accused of a crime, he does not have to prove damages and it is "defamation per se"
Therefore, your friend would have to meet only the first three requirements in order to win and be awarded damages,
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