Slammed Online: How to Deal with Online Defamation

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These days online defamation can be a daunting thing to face. Once your reputation is marred online, it’s out there for everyone to see. The first place people come across negative material in internet search engines. However, search engines aren’t responsible for this material. They will however delete the result if you can get the website in question to omit the material. So, step 1 is dealing directly with the source to remove the unwanted content. You can send either a polite initial email with a request for removal or jump straight to a cease-and-desist letter.

Unfortunately, additional steps will be required if the post is on an anonymous site. Attorney Adam J. Savaglio, an associate at Scarfone Hawkins LLP, recommends that in the case of anonymous bloggers, the “grieving party should consider having legal counsel make a formal demand to the Internet service provider (ISP) to remove the defamatory statement and/or have the ISP release the names of the bloggers. If the ISP does not assist, it will require an application with the court to release the ISP addresses of its users. While ISPs may not oppose providing such information, they may only be willing to provide customer information on the direction of the court. This can be a costly exercise and may not produce the actual names of the anonymous parties, since in some instances the user’s IP address may be traced to a public location such as a café or library.”

That’s Step 1.

Step 2 involves contacting primary search engines to inform them of the defamatory material, the update (if successfully removed), and a request to remove the listing.

Savaglio also highlights an interesting point distinguishing defamatory action against an individual versus a corporation. He adds, “Unlike people, businesses are presumed not to have feelings; however, a business organization is still entitled to legal protection from reckless statements, particularly since establishing goodwill can be a rigorous process requiring years of hard work. In this case, a grieving party would only be able to assert a claim if the words are likely to produce or produced a loss of earnings, opportunities or customers.”

What a lot of people don’t consider is the social web. It’s one thing if a defamatory comment is left on a website, blog post, or some other search engine yielding site. It’s another when it’s left on the social web, like Facebook. It’s tougher to track those comments because they aren’t factored into search results. To browse comments here, you’ll have to run a social search through the social web itself. You can take advantage of SocialMention, YoName, snitch.name, Folowen, Samepoint, and Google Social Search to run a monthly search gauntlet tracking inflammatory language.

In all cases, never repeatedly visit a negative site, regardless of where you find the listing. The more times a link is clicked on in a search engine, the higher it climbs up the result ranks. I’d say having a military strategy of the strongest offense being a strong defense is a sound step forward to protecting yourself against online defamation. Take care to honor your agreements, keep standards high, and take proactive measures against any disgruntled colleagues or clients.

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