Date of Award




Faculty Advisor

Freivogel, William


With the integration of technology into society computer mediated discourse (CMD) has become a standard form of communication. E-mail, chat rooms, and social networking websites are used daily to discuss a variety of informal and formal topics. The ability to communicate with millions of people across the world instantaneously has not come without legal repercussions and court cases involving online defamation have started to appear. Traditional law separates defamation into two categories: slander encompassing oral defamation and requiring greater proof of injury, and libel including written texts without need of definitive proof to collect compensation. Current lawsuits involving online defamation have all advanced on the basis that these statements are libelous. However, the author argues that just as distinction between oral and written language exists offline so too does it exist online. Drawing on work done in Linguistics this project examined the similarities and differences in spoken and written language as it compares to CMD and discovered that certain Twitter posts are closer in structure to speaking and should therefore be considered as slander. The free exchange of ideas and opinions is a cornerstone to any free society and governments must be cautious of regulations imposing self censorship. Failure to recognize the differences in CMD could lead to such a chilling effect of online communication in fear of repercussion.