The Internet is a marketplace of ideas. Whether a person has an opinion on politics, a certain product or business, there is always a forum to share their opinion on.
The possibility to instantly spread information worldwide is a coin with two sides. It is a tool that will be as good or as bad as the person who uses it.
As a business owner, it is likely that a competitor could use the tools available online to spread misinformation about your business, such as accusing you of dishonest practices or discrimination.
Making a defamatory statement online and broadcasting it over the internet is known as libel. Libel has two major elements: first, that the publisher knew it to be a false statement, and second — the false information led to a loss for the party involved.
Some examples that would qualify as libel:
- Forum postings about the business
- Facebook comments on your business’ official Facebook page
- Protest websites which dedicate themselves to making false claims about your business
- Mass e-mails about your business
Protecting Your Business against Libel
There are a few strategies to employ to protect you against a libel. One is litigation. Libel is a tort in most jurisdictions around the world. If you are successful in your case, the court will order the person to remove the offending material and refrain from libelling you in the future.
The other effective method is using a reputation management service. Reputation management services will often contact publishers in an attempt to remove any defamatory content.
However, they also work on promoting the good things about you and your business so that your online presence is accurately reflected in search results. If a libellous comment about your business is not taken down by the publisher, it may never appear in search engine results due to optimizing other, accurate and positive information about the business. This helps protect your business while avoiding the costly litigation that might come with a suit over libel.
Necessary Steps to Take
Regardless of how you want to deal with Internet defamation, you should keep a few things in mind when you stumble upon libellous material:
- Keep a list of URLs of all the defamatory material about your business. This will be used as evidence for court if you file a lawsuit, or for takedown letters if you use a reputation management service.
- Don’t try to threaten the publisher, as this can hurt your brand more than help.
- Keep records of your company’s sales before and after the defamatory content first appeared online. This will establish the loss suffered by your business as a result of the defamatory material.