There are few instances when you should be heavy-handed on social media, and facing a defamatory reputation attack is one of them. It already takes plenty of effort to manage one’s reputation, but it feels unfair when someone attacks your brand name without merit.
Still, a reputation attack still requires a soft approach. You don’t want to make a big deal out of it and attract additional attention to it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be more firm when taking action against defamation attempts.
The Non-Legal Approach
Most of website administrators will look to avoid conflicts, so they will retract, edit, or delete incorrect information if you contact them. That’s the approach you should take when being defamed online. Instead of going to an attorney and incur the extra costs, your first contact should be a direct message. Take a friendly but firm stance and explain that the author of the defamatory content has made a mistake in their statement. Send them the correct information and explain that the continued publication of the inaccurate comments will have a negative financial impact on you.
Your goal should not be to force their hand with a full on cease and desist letter. Instead, an informal email should be enough to let them know that they have made a mistake.
Make Your Request Clear
When you contact them and request the removal of defamation content, it’s important to spell out exactly what you wish them to delete and how. If you don’t lay out your demands clearly, then you run the risk that the site administrator will do nothing more than post an excerpt of your response to the original article.
The best way to approach this is to ask for full deletion of the defamatory statements. The article, blog post, tweet, or status update should be deleted. This is the only way to avoid it showing up in Google in future searches.
Should they be unwilling to delete it completely, the next best solution is to completely redact the defamatory statements. For instance, the title of the post should be changed, your name removed from the headline, and ensure that anyone reading the page understands that the author made a mistake. As an additional measure, consider requesting that a “no index” tag for the article is specified, so that Google doesn’t show the page in search results.
Taking Legal Action
Ultimately, if you are unable to get the author to remove the defamatory statement, then it may be time to consider legal action. You can start off with a letter from your attorney, so you make your intentions clear. Nobody wants to fight a legal battle, and most people will comply with your requests.
If not, then it’s time to move the matter before a judge. Before you recourse to legal action, you need to make sure that your case is valid. You can’t sue someone for defamation just because you didn’t like the review they left for your business. A successful claim must prove that the statement was false, caused financial harm, and was made with no attempt to research the truth.