My question involves defamation in the state of: FL/CO
A brief history of what has transpired to lead me to the point of these questions.
I once belong to a social network, for the purpose of this question we shall call them XYZ. And after being a member there of good standing for quite some time, several other members decided to start a malicious slander attack in public forums against myself and several of my friends that were at this XYZ site. They had taken pictures out of our private albums and misrepresent and altered photographs and tried to say that they were really us just trying to cause trouble. I know it sounds rather complicated and was all very sophomoric. So after complaining to the owners of XYZ site they had indicated that they had no intention of stopping or intervening with this behavior or these very hateful and public attacks where peoples businesses and reputations were being maligned. We decided to leave the site and I decided to start my own social network, for this discussion purpose we'll call it site ABC.
Since beginning site ABC, my computer was hacked on several occasions causing me to lose valuable material and images. I couldn't prove who had caused such damage but I had my suspicions. Several of my ABC's site features had ended up being implemented shortly on the XYZ site. Again as I did not own intellectual property of these features there was nothing I could do about it.
The time for my official launch of my ABC site came last Friday and the grand opening that was being sponsored by a radio station along with a party celebrating the site's official opening. On the day of this launch an email was sent out trying to impersonate ABC's email address (different extension, I use MSN and this imposter email had a gmail extension) and in this impersonation email was the title "Its a party" and in the email body it stated "Hello ABC members, please watch the video below and tell all your friends about it. Join the party" The video that was included in the email was that of some rather disgusting porn.
This email was sent to everyone in my personal email account, where several of these email contacts are family members and some of them minors.
I was beyond humiliated and felt that I couldn't stay silent any longer. So I sent out an email to everyone in my personal email account apologizing for the offensive material and stating that it wasn’t ABC site that sent out that email and that I suspected that it allegedly came from XYZ's site. That I had forwarded the email to all the proper authorities to open an investigation and then when it was found concretely who was responsible for that email that I would send out another one announcing the findings but if it was found to be XYZ's site or someone in connection with XYZ's site that it was totally reprehensible that they could do anything to try and sabotage my reputation and potentially harm the launch of my new ABC site. I had also as a courtesy, CC’d the owner of XYZ site.
Yesterday I received an email from the owner of the XYZ site stating that they demanded an email be sent to everyone retracting my statements that I assumed it was XYZ site that was potentially behind this pornographic material and that I issue an apology and they gave me a 24 hr dead line to do so or they were going to file a lawsuit against me and stated that they already had lawsuits against other ex members of the XYZ site totaling nearly a million dollars.
I felt that this was nothing more then a scare tactic and proceeded to tell them so and that I had no intention of emailing a retraction or an apology until the findings of the investigation came back. I did state to them that if indeed they were not found responsible in anyway connected to the pornography email that was sent out to my entire personal contacts list that I would then be happy to state what the findings where and an apology at that time but not a moment sooner.
And that we were also intending to file a potential class action suit by myself and several ex XYZ members for the slander that was allowed to go unchecked at their site (which we have screen shots of proof) and for the altering of our images directly by the XYZ site by inserting the XYZ site logo on all of the photographs that we uploaded to the site, which is not in their TOS and was done without knowledge or consent or the members. They had stated when we complained of this action, that anything that was uploaded to their site they owned, which again is not stated anywhere in their TOS and all of which is all provable.
So now that you know this complicated story. What do you think? Should I have offered a retraction and an apology prior to the investigation being concluded?
If I made a statement that I believe to be the truth but coached the truth in worlds as "if it was them" "apparently" "allegedly" and using other assumptive, non-definitive language, can they still get me for defamation?
And since they set the precedent by not involving themselves when it was happening on site XYZ by members towards other members, does this come off as a double standard?
And btw... site XYZ is in FL and my site ABC is out of CO and in their terms of service they have an arbitration clause. Does this go both ways or just if we decided to sue them? And how would that go? Would they file the suit in FL and I would have to go there or would they have to file suit against me in CO? And where does the first amendment come into play?
I look forward to some feedback. Thank you!