The internet has changed our lives in so many wonderful ways, but it has also invited people to offer their opinion on everything under the sun. Unfortunately, reviews, blogs, and even articles on legitimate news sites have become fertile ground for unfounded accusations and outright lies that can seriously affect reputations and livelihoods. When online comments stray beyond criticism and into internet defamation, legal action may be necessary.
The first step in taking action against internet defamation is to understand exactly what it is, and what it isn’t. Defamation is a knowingly false statement of fact that damages a person or business’ reputation. It can be spoken (in which case it is known as slander) or written (in which case it is known as libel.) Internet defamation is its own category but is still generally considered libel. Posting a negative opinion does not constitute libel: a restaurant owner cannot sue a reviewer for saying that their food tastes bad. They can, however, file an internet defamation lawsuit if that same reviewer falsely (and knowingly) says that their food causes food poisoning.
Filing a lawsuit is not necessarily the best way to counter internet defamation, though it is one option. In many instances, a defamatory statement may have been made anonymously, and that makes identifying the perpetrator very difficult. If you know who is making libelous statements your attorney can send a cease-and-desist letter asking the poster to delete their false statements or face litigation, but when that is not the case you may only have the website, web host or ISP to approach, and these entities all have their own terms and conditions that protect them from responsibility for content posted by others. They may, however, be open to removing material or redacting it, but this process can be time-consuming — out outright refused.
If litigation is the only remedy available to you in the face of internet defamation, it is important that you are able to show that you have suffered real damages to your reputation or business. Without that, your case is unlikely to be accepted as valid by a judge.
Being victimized by online defamation is frustrating, but you are not without options. For information about how our experienced attorneys can help you get your reputation and customers back, contact us today to set up a time for us to discuss your situation.