What Is the Definition of Defamatory Speech?

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Defamatory speech is any false, publicly spoken statement that harms the reputation of another person, group of people or organization. Another term for defamatory speech is slander.

Common law and most democratic governments consider published episodes of defamatory speech to be either a civil violation or a crime. The spoken word is said to be published if it is recorded and publicly broadcast, available for sale or otherwise freely distributed. In some cases, slander is also a crime if it is presented in a public arena, even if it is not published. Criminal acts of defamatory speech involve intentions to mislead the public and intentions to hurt the party slandered. Debate exists among judicial experts whether criminalizing defamatory speech is a method of censorship.