Your online reputation is increasingly valuable, and increasingly fragile. It's easy for people to destroy your good name without even thinking about the consequences to you or your business. So if you see online defamation, what should you do? And how should you engage in internet defamation management?
What Is Online Defamation?
Defamation is defined under the law as any knowingly-false communication that harms your reputation. The key term here is "knowingly false"; a person who deliberately lies about you to ruin your reputation is committing defamation under the law. A person who hears that lie, believes it, and repeats it, is not. Similarly, negative opinions of you are rarely defamation; a person is legally allowed to not like your business, they just aren't allowed to lie about you because they don't like you.
Often online defamation has two sources: One is simply a difficult customer that may simply not be satisfied until you apologize. The second is a straightforward blackmail scheme; pay up or suffer the insults.
So, with that in mind, what are the steps to Internet defamation management?
You Must Respond
Some form of response is important. Unfortunately, too often, it's held that silence means assent or agreement, and making no response whatsoever will allow the situation to get out of hand much more quickly. Online defamation control demands that you must act, decisively and efficiently, but in what way?
Legal Action And Online Defamation Control
Unfortunately, legal action may not necessarily be your best option with Internet defamation control. It can be difficult to find the person defaming you, and even more difficult to prove that they've engaged in defamation. If a comment can reasonably be construed as a declaration of opinion, or it can be shown to have a factual basis, then you're unlikely to win the case. Even if you do win, it can take months — or even years — and cost you thousands of dollars in court and legal fees.
Legal action is only recommended in very extreme cases of defamation, where you either have a slam-dunk case or simply no other option to fight back. That said, if you receive blackmail threats, take them to the authorities: Blackmail isn't legal just because it's on the Internet.
The good news is that you don't have to take it, even if you can't take it to court. You can often respond directly to defaming comments online, whether via sending a letter to the editor or otherwise replying. Remember that it's important to be respectful and professional no matter how hostile and rude the person in question is. By keeping calm as part of your Internet defamation control str, you'll demonstrate that you have nothing to hide, and force those reading to wonder what, precisely, is at work here.
Posting a Response on Your Website
Unfortunately — especially in situations where the defamation is not from a newspaper article or other identifiable source, but whispered rumors — you may need to address it directly. This isn't the best option; it draws attention to the rumor in the first place. But by acknowledging and clearly dismissing it, with evidence if possible, it will at least give you a response to point to.
Stop It Before It Starts
Especially on the Internet, you can take control of your online reputation. For example, at ReputationDefender, we have years of experience in online defamation management and containing the damage from online defamation. We'll help you develop an SEO strategy and turn your customers into your biggest advocates. When defamers try to come knocking, you'll have the power to knock them away.
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