No matter how much we hear about fake news, false stories going viral, and hackers taking over online business profiles, most people assume that the “Internet of Things” is the truth. This state of affairs is particularly troublesome for entrepreneurs whose businesses become the subject of online defamation in the form of “revenge reviews,” many of which go viral. “Revenge reviews” are either false or grossly exaggerated negative “opinions” about a business posted to various social media sites by unhappy clients, angry former employees, or . . . WORSE . . . a competitor business looking to skew search results in its favor. The impact that one negative review can have on a business can be catastrophic . . . unless you have access to an experienced legal team, like the great folks at Thrive Law, that know how to leverage the law to fight for your reputation online and, in many cases, recover money from the offenders for the economic damage they caused.
If someone, known or unknown, talks smack about your business or professional reputation online via social media or a site designed to publish consumer reviews (think Yelp!), there are several ways to handle it, each with its own pros and cons.
Doing nothing may seem crazy depending on your level of emotion and your tolerance from nonsense. However, doing nothing is ALWAYS an option. Let’s say you terminated your relationship with a client because he stopped paying his bills. He posts an extremely nasty post about your business online and rates you a 1 out of five stars. While it is natural to want to defend your business against any and all defamatory statements, if you have 100 other fantastic reviews, a single nastygram may have little impact on your online reputation and rankings. If the negative post is excessively exaggerated and outlandish, readers are likely to ignore it as an outlier or to see it for what it is: a person who is unhappy with everything in his life having a public temper tantrum.
Most business owners opt for this approach. When something ugly about them appears on a consumer review site, they simply rebut it with an apology and offer to conciliate or an explanation for the circumstances. The issue with responding this way is that you may draw attention to the initial bad press, which may have gone unnoticed were it not for your rebuttal.
If you try this approach on your own without legal assistance, be forewarned that it is not always successful. Consumer review sites often push back on requests to remove even clearly defamatory reviews, citing that their interest is in protecting the consumer and noting that their own reputations will be damaged if they remove every negative comment every time a business owner complains. However, if you can establish that the offensive post violates your trademark, copyrighted material, or that it is just plain false, the social media site may remove the post, if only to avoid getting dragged into a lawsuit.
When your business and professional reputation are under fire, slapping the smack talker and the host site he rode in on may feel like a great way to channel your emotions, get vengeance, and win back your good name. But a lawsuit may not be the best avenue if the offending post does not give rise to a viable claim or if the hassle and cost of the suit is going to outweigh the damage or impact to your business. Before you file suit, meet with a knowledgeable digital defamation legal team so you understand what you’re getting into with eyes wide open.
When revenge reviews, false information, and defamatory content about you or your company go viral, it can have a real and significant financial impact on your business. Thank goodness for existing and emerging laws designed to help businesses fight digital defamation and rehab their reputations in their industries. The experienced and knowledgeable team at Thrive Law, PA can help you leverage those laws! If you’re facing online defamation or revenge reviews, give us a call today: 727.300.1990.
This article is an educational service of Thrive LawTM, a business law boutique. It does not constitute legal advice or imply an attorney client relationship. We offer a full spectrum of legal services for businesses and are equipped to help you make the wisest choices about your business dealings while you’re alive and well or in preparation for the event of your incapacity or death. We also offer a Healthy Business & Creative Checkup for ongoing ventures, as well as outsourced general counsel plans for businesses who need a legal team on speed dial. Contact us today to schedule: 727.300.1990 or email@example.com. We cannot wait to meet you!