The internet has given people the tools to communicate with almost anyone in the world. This ability also has a flip side — any individual reputation or a small business’s goodwill can be damaged quite easily by leveraging the online medium.
Unfortunately, cyber-libel is becoming more common. If in the past only public figures had libel and slander issues; today it’s everyone — regardless whether they have an online presence. Disgruntled customers, an angry ex-spouse or a competitor can now vent their frustrations cheaply, easily, and seemingly anonymously. On the other side, the victim of the cyber libel or defamation can have their reputation permanently damaged.
There are several ways to go about a case of online defamation and each requires careful assessment of the situation.
When You Can Ignore It
After assessing your case, including from a legal perspective, in some cases the best approach can be to ignore the defamation. However, this is a viable strategy only in highly specific scenarios.
Ignoring defamation may be beneficial when it will be quickly forgotten and is unlikely to spread. Ignoring it may also be an option when the impact of the defamation is relatively weak and doesn’t really affect your reputation.
When a Simple Refutation is enough
In many cases the best approach to tackle bad speech is with good speech. A refutation must be carefully planned and executed properly. A failed attempt at refuting bad claims could lead to flame wars and could even raise the popularity of the defamatory page.
Sometimes it may be wise to submit a comment in the same forum where the defamation was posted. Beware that actively participating in a defamatory conversation will increase the visibility on search engines and can have the opposite of the desired effect. A well written refutation should strive to neutralize the damage of the defamation, not instigate further controversy.
Overwhelm the Negative with Positive
In some cases it may be worthwhile to generate positive buzz and mentions that rank higher than the defamatory content when your name is searched. This approach is especially effective for businesses as the new content and pages could be used to improve the businesses’ online reputation. For some individuals burying defamation might be as simple as joining some social networking sites.
In cases where the defamatory content appears on a highly popular site then it may be very difficult and expensive to outrank that site. As such, you should consider consulting a competent search engine optimization and reputation expert.