Internet Defamation – What Can I Do?

Further to my post about Lord McAlpine settling with the Twitter smallfry, it was interesting to see an article in the FSB magazine about internet smears and what can be done about this type of defamation.

We have already seen how Google Places can be used by fake reviewers to ruin the reputation of their competitors and the rise of ‘review opportunities’ on local directories and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made online reputation management a burgeoning industry.

What Is Internet Defamation?

The FSB’s legal team advises that “to be defamatory, the statement must be both untrue and adversely affect that business’ or person’s reputation. For example, suggesting that it carries out its business in an incompetent, improper or dishonest way.”

Both the person who makes the statement and the website or platform on which it is published can be liable.

What action should I take over Internet Defamation?

A successful prosecution can be a great deal more complicated due to the cost of pursuing such an action, the difficulty in identifying who actually made the post and whether or not the poster actually has sufficient funds to make them worth suing.

Sometimes it can be better to let sleeping dogs lie as the more you kick off, the more adverse publicity can be generated. Many people believe that ‘if it’s on the internet, it’s true’ and, if you don’t defend yourself vociferously, then some of the mud can stick. It’s a difficult call.

In terms of search engines, they have a very long memory and it might be better to try to bury the offending article beneath others that are full of your good works than to allow the original allegation to proliferate with additional posts, articles and reviews that either defend or compound the issue.

If you cannot get the original article removed, then you need to persuade Google that there are more relevant and more up to date articles that will provide a better user experience against that keyword than the bad review/article they are currently showing.

Defence Against The Accusation of Internet Defamation

The defence against such a prosecution is usually that a person is entitled to their opinion and a bad review of service at either a restaurant or other business is not necessarily defamatory just because the owner of the business disagrees with it.