Internet slander is on the rise, and with it, a lot of questions about what slander really is, and isn’t. So today we’re going to go over it as much as possible.
Now first, let me say that I’m not an attorney, nor do I claim to be. These explanations are what I understand to be true, but if you are considering a defamation case in a court of law you are going to want to consult an attorney that specializes in this area. This blog is about reputation management and our goal is to help people dealing with online slander.
Now, that being said, let’s get started:
Defamation: Also called Defamation of Character.
Spoken or written words (commentary) on a living person that affects his or her reputation. It can be in regard to business or have personal connotations. If a blog, website, or forum writes something negative about you that lowers your reputation, defamation has occurred. Both libel and slander are forms of defamation of character.
Now, in many stats I believe that you have to actually have suffered a financial loss in order to have cause for action, but once again you are going to want to consult a lawyer in order to determine whether or not you have a case.
Slander is when someone says something negative about you, with spoken words. Internet libel is often confused with internet slander, but slander primarily means the spoken word. If I say something negative about you to all of my friends that hurts your business and is totally not true, this is slander.
Libel is the written word, as well as the recorded word. Ordinarily this includes radio and television broadcasts. If a reporter says something about you that is false, it is classified as libel. This also ordinarily includes written reviews on blogs and forums, as well as review websites.
Can you Sue for Internet Slander / Libel?
Yup, that’s the money question, right? Someone has slammed you online and you want to know if you can make them pay. The answer is maybe. Many product review websites, like Ripoff Report, My3Cents, Yelp, Complaints Board, and the rest are all protected by a law called The Communications Decency Act ( or “CDA,” : 47 USC 230), which completely protects website owners from being held libel for content created by their website users.
Could you possible sue the actual person that generated the content? Maybe, if you knew who they were. But website owners don’t have to divulge this information to you, nor do they have any responsibility to log any user info at all. So finding who to sue can be an issue when it comes to most the review sites.
Most of what I have read comes down to the 3 top questions a lawyer asks –
Do we have someone to sue?
Do we have a case?
Does that person have the means (money) to pay if we win?
Ability to pay probably being the biggest deciding factor of the three.
In some states, you have to actually prove a loss, because the court wants to restore you, or put you back where you would have been if the defamation had not occurred. They want to “make you whole.” In order to right the wrong that has been inflicted upon you. You are not supposed to get a windfall here, only correct the wrong that has been done.
In other states, they can out and out make a person pay. But again, it comes down to actually being able to collect a judgment that matters. Having a piece of paper saying you won a million dollars in a libel or slander suit means nothing if you never see the payment.
Does a person have a right to speak their opinion?
Absolutely, it’s a protected right that we hold dear, and constitutional. However, an opinion must remain an opinion and be stated as such. It can never contain specific facts that can later be proven untrue.
For example, I can say, “In my opinion, Bob is a terrible person.” But I can’t say, “Bob is a thief, I know he is”, if it’s not true and can be proven that it’s not true. This would fall under slander if I speak the words, libel if I write them (internet libel if it’s written on a blog or website). If Bob can prove that I’ve cost him money by my statement I could be in big trouble in court.
Can a person defend defamation in court?
Yup, with the cold, hard truth. Let’s face it, the truth hurts. If you sue someone for defamation (libel or slander) and they prove in court that what they said or wrote is true, you’re going to lose your case. Just because something is embarrassing or hurtful isn’t enough. If it’s true, you shouldn’t sue. You’ll only lose time and money and then ultimately, your case.
Can I remove internet slander / libel from offending websites?
Probably not, unless you can prove that the site owner wrote it and that it was untrue. If it was user generated they do not have to remove the content, nor disclose to you who wrote that content. It’s all protected by the CDA (Communications Decency Act) we mentioned before. Ripoff report and it’s clones have almost all stated that they will NEVER remove user generated content.
Why should they remove it? They are 100% protected by the CDA and the user generated content is the basis for their ugly, little business. Completely responsible for ALL of their web traffic.
Nope, they are never going to remove those reviews. But we can help. If you or your company are suffering from internet slander or online libel, please give our office a call at 800-818-6286 and let us show you how we can remove negative information from the first page of the search results.