Hence this piece has been put together to shed more light on online defamation along with what you can do to save yourself from such attacks. Let's get started!
Decoding online defamation
In simple terms, defamation is any false statement which harms a person's reputation. Libel is for written statements and slander is for spoken statements. Since this article deals with online defamation we will focus on libel because the internet is considered a fixed medium where even videos are categorized as libel. Though defamation laws vary from state to state, the criteria for determining whether a statement is defamation or not, remains the same. For a statement to be considered as defamation, it must be :
Should you be filing a lawsuit?
In some situations, a defamation suit can be a smart strategy. But even if you win legal respite, you won't be able to retain the defamatory information from spreading on the internet. There have been many instances when people attempting to cover up sensitive information have ended up amplifying it instead. Sometimes even if you have a very strong case it can be very difficult to identify who exactly is the person defaming you. Unless you can identify the defamer, you won't be able to legally force sites in removing defamatory content because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Non-legal options that you can use for dealing with defamation
Even if you don't take legal action, there are still options that you can choose to decrease the visibility of the defamatory content. We shall go over them one-by-one.
Ignorance is bliss: Here we don't imply that you don't need to do anything if your reputation is being maligned by someone. It simply means to not respond to it publicly as it can draw more attention to the defamatory content. This approach works well if you are the victim of low-level defamation which doesn't have the capability of having a lot of detrimental impact on your life. It makes sense to ignore defamatory content if the poster comes across as an unreliable source of information. It is because most people reading reviews can differentiate between genuine and fake reviews. They can especially differentiate reviews that have been written impartially from reviews reeking of bias. If you have a lot of positive online reviews, you don't need to do much as positive reviews will easily offset the handful of bad reviews that you have unfortunately gotten.
Respond to it: This step is risky but sometimes you may not have another option. To protect your reputation you will need to publicly reply to the poster on the same platform which he has used to defame you. You are advised to resort to this approach only when faced with defamatory statements that can have a detrimental impact on your career and business. Your focus should be on putting forth factual information to counterattack the malicious defamatory statements and prevent the spread of false information. You need to know which statements to ignore and which statements to respond to. If you fail to respond to some statements it can be taken as an admission of guilt. The best way out is to reply politely even if the poster is being unnecessarily rude or hostile. If and when you appear professional even when you are on the receiving end of defamatory statements, you will come across as someone who has nothing to hide and the public at large will believe you over the defamer.
Get it deleted: You can ask the site owner to get the defamatory content removed from the website. Even if you haven't filed a defamation lawsuit you can get many social media sites to remove content if it violates their Terms of Service. Almost all popular social media sites in today's day and age have Terms of Service and anyone violating such rules is restricted or suspended. You can get posts taken down on Facebook and tweets taken down on Twitter, if you can successfully report that they are in contravention of Terms of Service.
Bury it: This part of burying or suppressing negative online content is also known as online reputation management. Here you need to create quality content to rank highly for your name so that the negative content gets pushed down in search results. You will need to use a fair bit of SEO to promote the content that you create on a continuous basis, if you want to secure high rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs). If you haven't gotten the best results after trying everything else, you can safely follow this option because slowly but surely, this approach delivers results. Most people who are looking you up on search engines won't go beyond the first page or second page of results and when you push negative content down to the bottom of third page, it will get very less visibility. It is a solid way to mitigate the damage of online defamation.
The bottom line
Online defamation can hurt you in a lot of different ways and can affect all aspects of your life, personal as well as professional. Thus it is important for you to know of every possible way to save yourself from such defamatory attacks. You can follow all the tips above but if you are in a particularly precarious situation then you need to call in the experts. For a better outcome you are advised to hire online reputation management services of an online reputation management company.