Defamation and the Moral Community

Posted: 15 Nov 2013

Date Written: March 3, 2008


This paper presents the key findings of a major empirical investigation into defamation law and social attitudes. It examines the way in which the law decides whether a publication is defamatory, and the consequences for that process of a phenomenon known as the third-person effect: the tendency for individuals to perceive the adverse impact of a communication as greater on others than on themselves. It argues that, as a result of this tendency, defamation law unnecessarily and unfairly silences speech on the basis of protection to reputation, even though little or no reputational harm would actually occur. What is more, defamation law perpetuates regressive attitudes and could do more to promote a just and inclusive society.

Keywords: Media law, defamation law, libel and slander, third-person effect

Suggested Citation

Baker, Roy, Defamation and the Moral Community (March 3, 2008). Deakin Law Review, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 1-35, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Roy Baker (Contact Author)

Macquarie Law School ( email )

Macquarie University
NSW 2109, New South Wales 2109

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