Defamation is a civil wrong, like other personal injuries, consisting of statements that injure someone else’s reputation. When the statements are written, they are considered “libel,” while spoken defamation is “slander.” However, in general, defamation law is designed with First Amendment rights and the importance of free speech and political or social disagreement in mind. Not every insult or false statement is actionable.
In general, a plaintiff suing for defamation will have to show the statement was published, false, harmful to him or her, and not privileged. “Publication” can mean that words were spoken to another person, written words were transmitted to someone else, or that pictures or gestures were shared with another person. A private entry in a journal is not considered published.