1. Elements of defamation, whether it be slander or libel:
- Statement must be false. In the U.S. it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove a statement is false.
- It must be a statement of fact, not opinion.
- It must be published and made available to someone else, and this includes text messages and email. If it is said or written directly to the person it is about, it cannot be considered defamation.
- Must be about a specific person or identity, and that includes a company.
- It must be defamatory/negative in a social sense. That is, it is not considered defamation to “rat out” a criminal, even though it damages that person’s reputation, because stopping the crime is considered positive to society.
- It must cause harm, a.k.a damage someone’s reputation.
2. No, you should never assume a false identity when accessing electronic information, even if someone with access to that information gives you their login and password. It is never allowable.
3. There is no strict rule for how much time you should give your sources. You want to give them as much time as you can given the circumstances. If it is a simple fact that they should know off the top of their head, then there is no need to give them time at all. If it is a complex fact where some research is needed, then giving them time to get back to you is reasonable.
4. There is no rule about reading back quotes to a source. Some do it, others do not. If you tell them that you will, then you should. If you feel like doing it for accuracy, then feel free, but the best policy is to do it right at the end of the interview.