Defamation and Bad Reviews: How To Protect Your Business & Personal Reputation Online

You’ve no doubt seen negative reviews and comments about someone or a business online, maybe even one about you or your own business. A single 1 star Yelp review can quickly spiral into every business owner’s worst nightmare. Today, we’re going to discuss the current digtal climate and how to manage your reputation in the face of negative reviews. Specifically, we’ll talk about when it rises to the level of something you can sue for: defamation.

Can You Sue Over False Bad Reviews?

As review platforms such as Yelp become more and more popular, many businesses are experiencing false claims and defamation on a scale they’ve ever seen before. The good news is that you can do something about it to protect your business.

You may or may not know, but there’s no shortage of lawsuits about posts people make about businesses. There have been hundreds of lawsuits over online reviews or comments about businesses that have resulted in legal action. Let’s talk about how this happens and what to keep in mind.

  1. Was the Statement False?

The 1st amendment guarantees only the truth, not lies. Most people in the United States think they can say anything they want, but that simply isn’t true. Especially on a website like Yelp, LinkedIn, or Google+. When it comes to a customer review, if it’s negative AND untruthful, then you can sue for damages.

Any case brought to remove or silence a negative comment or review must allege and prove that the comment is not truthful. If the comment or review was the truth, then there is nothing legally that you can do to force the other person to remove or correct the comment.

I would add that, the easiest way to deal with an “unsatisfied customer” is to approach and calm them down. Don’t ever NOT respond to negative feedback, that makes it look even worse.

  1. Is It Really Defamation?

If the information posted about you or your business online is untruthful, then the legal action you may bring against the fraudster is called defamation.

There are two types of defamation:

    • The first type is libel and this has to do with defamation that is written. This would include online reviews and comments.
    • The second type is slander and this has to do with defamation that is spoken

What Do you Have to Do To Win a Defamation Lawsuit?

In order to win a defamation lawsuit you must show the following:

  1.  That a statement was made.
  2.  That it was published for others to see (comments, reviews, etc).
  3.  That the statement caused you injury ( emotional distress, loss of business, etc).
  4.  That the statement was false.

Awards in a defamation suit generally consist of the removal of the false statement(s) and damages for the amount of lost profits or injury that was caused. While lawsuits can remedy harm caused to you or your business, they are also costly and take a long time to conclude.

The Smart Way to Handle Bad or False Reviews

If someone does post an untruthful or negative review, respond to it once and only once. Never argue with someone in the comments or reviews section. There’s no way someone reading that will be able to tell who is lying and who isn’t.

As long as you reply once, that shows that you as a business owner care, and that’s what’s important. If you can, reach out to that disgruntled customer via phone or email.

If you’re unable to resolve a negative comment or review and if that comment or review is false AND is causing you or your business injury, you can bring a lawsuit against the perpetrator.

Just remember, a lawsuit can be a long and costly process, so don’t go down that road unless it’s worth it. If only your feelings were hurt, or if the statements were mostly true, then don’t waste your time with a lawsuit as it won’t be worth the legal fees.

Most lawsuits are just not worth it. But if you think yours might be, there’s only one smart thing to do. Schedule a consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.

 

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