In 2011, Oregon lawyer Kevin Padrick finally won a lawsuit against a blogger, Crystal Cox, putting an end to several years of Internet slander. Padrick's case is the stuff of nightmares in the reputation management industry; Cox had no real connection to Padrick or the company he was a key member of, the Obsidian Finance Group. Yet she built several websites campaigning against him, costing Padrick half of his customers and polluting his Google search results with what was ultimately ruled to be slander.
Cases like these are relatively rare on the wider Internet, but they can happen. So, what should you do when faced with online slander?
What Is Slander?
It's key that you understand what slander is, under the law; specifically, it's someone telling a deliberate falsehood about your company with the intent to ruin your reputation. If somebody posts on a web forum, "I personally think this business is run by crooks," it is probably not online defamation or slander under the law, because that person isn't stating something as fact; they're stating an opinion. It may not be something you want to read, but it's not slander. Sadly there are no laws on the books about being rude or hostile, but fortunately, most of us can spot a person with more temper than sense.
Now, if somebody stated "Don't go to this business: They stole $500 from me!" and you can prove you've never done business with that person, that would be Internet defamation. It was a lie they knew to be false, spread with the intent to damage your reputation. This could be because the person in question is not well, or they could be attempting blackmail. The point is, it's happening and you need to deal with it.
Stopping Internet Slander
So, how do you stop online slander? First and foremost, forewarned is forearmed. Keep an eye on your search results and social media accounts, often the first stop for a slander campaign.
Secondly, act fast. If somebody is slandering you, the best tool to prevent it is the simple truth, presented on the same forum. Never reply angrily, profanely, or in a hostile way. Politely lay out the facts, and offer proof of these facts if you can make it available. Request that the person slandering you do the same. Put him in a place where he has to prove to you that what he's saying is true, not the other way around. Once it becomes clear you're not just going to give him whatever he wants, you'd be surprised how quickly many would-be slanderers simply vanish back into the Internet, or reveal their true character. Online defamation cannot stand up to the truth.
Finally, if you're forced to take legal action, do so discreetly. It would surprise you how many people take dragging somebody to court as bullying, even if the "little guy" turns out to be completely in the wrong.
The best defense against slander and other online reputation damage, however, is really to make it difficult or impossible to slander you in the first place. ReputationDefender can help you make your customers advocates for your business, teach you how to use social media to handle difficult situations, and engage in reputation management that gives you a strong method to stop online slander in its tracks. Don't let slander wreck your business: Contact ReputationDefender today.
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