Businesses spend a lot of time doing marketing and public relations to build their brand, so it can be devastating to find that someone has posted a harsh statement on the Internet that is outright false. For all the efforts that a business puts into websites, social networking and online ads, one bit of misinformation can sometimes topple their credibility.
Two common grievances include businesses being accused of dishonest practices and discrimination. Competitors and unhappy individuals are usually the ones blamed for trying to undermine the business’ reputation on online chatrooms, Facebook, “protest websites”, and mass e-mails. But to show that a business is a victim of defamation, it must show that the published statement was false and resulted in a loss.
As soon as a business realizes that the unflattering material is on the Web, it is advised to keep thorough records of what is being posted. Compile a list of all websites that have the defamatory statements. This will be useful evidence in the courtroom or for takedown letters that reputation management services create. Also, keep records of sales numbers from before and after the harsh content appeared on the Web. This will help show the loss incurred and aid the court in calculating damages.
And do not fall into the knee-jerk reaction of trying to threaten the author, publisher or website. A lawyer can help get the bad content removed, but not if you are threatening them and have the police at your door to calm you down. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does protect webmasters and hosting companies from being held liable for what another user posts on their website unless it can be proved that the specific individual was responsible for its publication. An Internet company that permits criminal acts or intellectual property infringement may still be held liable, so it is advised to get an experienced attorney early on when an issue occurs.
In order to protect the business, a company will want to get legal counsel and serve the wrongdoer with a civil action alleging defamation and libel. Many businesses do not know who harmed them as oftentimes the degrading postings are by anonymous authors. Businesses are advised to provide a notice in whatever medium the original posting was made to make the anonymous author aware of their wrongdoing before any subpoena is enforced. The case will initially be against a “John Doe” defendant and through the discovery process, ISP records and other pertinent information will reveal their true identity.
Good attorneys will help their client win monetary compensation and an injunction that forces the author or website to remove the offending material and refrain from defaming the business in the future. Otherwise, the author could be fined or jailed for contempt of court.
The Law Offices of Spotora & Associates has decades of experience representing individuals and businesses in defamation cases from sole proprietorships to major international corporate entities. Their clients are actively involved in various industries including technology, marketing, communications, pharmaceuticals, retail sales, manufacturing and distribution, as well as restaurants and nightclubs, film, television and multimedia productions. Their lead Los Angeles business lawyer, Anthony Spotora, is one of the area’s top attorneys who is well versed in both business and Internet law.