Note: This page covers information specific to North Carolina and should be read in conjunction with the general section on retraction in the section on Correcting or Retracting Your Work After Publication which has additional information applicable to all states.
North Carolina has a retraction statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 99-2, that applies to libelous statements published in an "article" of a "newspaper or periodical." Although the statute does not specifically state whether it covers online articles, it also does not require that the article be published in a specific medium. Thus, if your online work can be characterized as a newspaper or periodical, you have a colorable argument that the retraction law applies to your online work.
Handling Requests to Remove or Retract Material in North Carolina
If someone contacts you with a retraction request, you should first determine whether a retraction is warranted; review the steps under the handling a retraction request section of this guide for help in making this assessment. If you determine that a retraction is appropriate, you should follow the procedures outlined in the North Carolina retraction statute so that you can avail yourself of the statutory benefit of limiting potential defamation damages.
Under the North Carolina retraction statute:
- A plaintiff must serve notice informing the publisher of the false statements;
- Once the publisher receives notice, the publisher must publish the correction, apology, or retraction within ten days; and
- The publisher must make a full and fair correction and apology and must clearly refer to and admit the falsity of the original statements. See Roth v. Greensboro News Co., 6 S.E.2d 882 (N.C. 1940) for more information.
If you comply with these procedures after receiving a retraction request and you are found to be liable for libel, the plaintiff's ability to recover damages from you will be limited. He or she will be able to recover only for his or her actual economic losses and will not be able to recover general damages (e.g., loss of reputation generally) or punitive damages.
Even if your online publishing activities do not fall within the scope of North Carolina's retraction statute, your willingness to correct past errors in your work will provide several benefits. It will make your work more accurate and reliable, which will increase your credibility, influence, and (hopefully) your page views. It will also diminish the likelihood of your being sued in the first place, as it might placate the potential plaintiff. Furthermore, courts and juries may find a retraction shows your good faith, which will benefit you in a defamation suit.