Defamation/Reputation Attacks

Complaint sites, review sites, blogs, and social media have become the weapons of choice for someone upset with your company. Frequently, these are not just unhappy customers but competitors, employees, and other disgruntled parties intent upon harm. However, most companies and their legal advisors do not know the rights steps to take when you come under attack.


How to Deal with Potential Defamation on Twitter

Although it took some time for the masses to adopt Twitter since the first public tweet was sent on March 21, 2006, Twitter has truly changed the way many people gather news and information and interact with others. While Twitter is generally used in a positive manner, it is also a hotbed for trolling. And beyond trying to provoke others, some bad actors go as far as posting defamatory content on Twitter, perhaps even creating Twitter accounts solely to disparage a business or person on or using the Twitter app. Depending on the particular user’s Twitter following and the specific content of his or her tweet, defamatory tweets can spread quickly, although it is only necessary that one third party views defamation for it to be actionable.
People who have private accounts or delete potentially defamatory tweets cannot assume these tweets will not go (or have gone) unseen. Moreover, bad actors who send out false and disparaging tweets cannot assume they are immune from the consequences of defaming others on Twitter, even if they have shielded their identities and do not publicly display any identifying information. In fact, when a person or company believes they have been defamed by an unknown user, that party may be able to identify the person behind a particular Twitter handle (i.e. @username) and tweet (or series of tweets). Specifically, they can work with an attorney to issue a subpoena to Twitter to obtain personally identifying information for the user, such as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and an email address.
This whitepaper will discuss the process of handling defamation on Twitter, including how to use the subpoena process to identify Twitter users publishing defamatory content.


How to Remove Defamatory Material from Craigslist

Craigslist, a classified ads website, has become a valuable resource for many people in the United States and across the world to post and/or search listings for jobs, housing, personals, various services, and more. Although most Craigslist posters use the website for legitimate transactions or interactions, some go onto the website with the goal of exploiting others and interfering with legitimate business relationships. For instance, people may publish others’ personal information to harass them. Alternatively, disgruntled customers of a business may alter genuine ads for client services and construct fraudulent ads in such a manner that they appear to have actually been posted by someone from the business. This type of behavior can cause significant financial damage.
Craigslist prohibits certain content from being published on the website including postings that are false, misleading, deceptive or fraudulent; offensive, obscene, defamatory, threatening or malicious ads; and those containing anyone’s personal, identifying confidential or proprietary. Nevertheless some users do post these types of harmful ads on Craigslist, and these people feel comfortable doing so thinking they can shield their identities by posting anonymously.
This whitepaper will address how to remove defamation and other harmful Craigslist ads. Part II addresses contacting the poster or Craigslist through the website, while Part III discusses the subpoena process for disclosing the identity of an anonymous poster.


How to Remove Defamatory News Articles from the Internet: Strategies to Repair a Company’s Online Reputation Following Negative Media Coverage

Companies have always faced the hazard of adverse coverage and bad publicity in the news media. Negative media coverage can hurt a business’s reputation and cancel out advertising dollars and years spent to build a good image. Traditional strategies to handle these emergencies focus on appropriate press statements (or decisions not to comment) and waiting for the news cycle to move on.
Today, bad publicity about a company—or a person closely associated with it—can remain readily available online for years. If a negative article about your company is posted on a “strong” website, such as the website of a widely circulated news outlet, it can come up on the first page of Google and other search engines for a long time. Imagine a headline screaming “CEO of Arrested for Felony,” along with an embarrassing mug shot. Now imagine that it was a false arrest, a case of mistaken identity, and the charges are dropped. The original arrest story, carried on the websites of news sources that originally reported it, may nevertheless continue to come up as one of the first results, every time someone searches for the company on Google. Other sites republish or archive it, and more versions of the same story come up on the search engines. The story creates the impression that the business is run by a felon, and sales drop.
What remedies are potentially available to a company in such a situation? This whitepaper will discuss four options that a company has when it (or a professionals, such as a CEO) is the subject of negative media coverage: cease and desist letters and negotiating with media outlets (Part II); lawsuits to remove defamatory articles (Part III); the removal of articles from third party websites (Part IV); and search engine optimization, or SEO, strategies (Part V).


How to Remove Harmful Content from Wikipedia

Wikipedia, launched in January 2001, currently offers more than 34 million articles written in 288 languages. These articles have been written by tens of millions of registered users and other anonymous contributors. According to Alexa Internet, Wikipedia is the sixth-most popular website in the United States and seventh-most popular in the world. As Wikipedia has continued to grow, the online encyclopedia and the articles contained thereon have gained more acceptance as a reliable source of information – especially with its emphasis on having well-sourced information.
Nevertheless, Wikipedia can be a source of concern for businesses and business executives/professionals who are profiled on the website. Wikipedia’s “openly editable model” allows for virtually anyone to add or edit content. Thus, for example, a disgruntled customer or ex-business partner can publish an article that may appear factual to the average reader, but it is actually intended as a veiled attack. With the high volume of articles and if the content is not blatantly false, this can go undetected and ultimately be viewed by countless prospective customers, employees, and investors. Alternatively, a business executive that is otherwise not a public figure may be harmed simply by the posting of private information.
This whitepaper offers tips for removing such harmful content from Wikipedia. Part II discusses an overview of Wikipedia’s core principles, while Parts III and IV address how businesses and their executives/professionals, respectively, can handle false content published on Wikipedia.


Six Things to Consider Before Filing an Internet Defamation Lawsuit

Many businesses struggle with handling online reputation attacks that can hurt the public’s perception of them. Competitors, ex-business partners, ex-employees and others with motives to hurt the business may post disparaging information about a company online, which can cause serious damage. This behavior has resulted in a significant rise in internet defamation cases. But before filing such a lawsuit, the business and its legal advisers need to think through key issues to balance the cost and risks of a lawsuit versus the likelihood of success.
The six key items are:

  1. Does the online criticism come from someone with an ulterior motive?
  2. Who caused the harm?
  3. Does the victim need to prove damages?
  4. Act quickly.
  5. Find out where you can file a suit (venue) and what difference it might make.
  6. Are there easier methods to stop online attacks and remove the defamation?

Each defamation case is unique. When evaluating a case, businesses should consider if there are easier or more efficient ways to solve their problems and remove harmful content. Often this requires consulting with professionals who specialize in this area, who can typically provide realistic options. Businesses should keep in mind that different specialists may have different perspectives and solutions – for example, the approach taken by an internet attorney versus a cyber investigation group may be different. Therefore, it is important to consider all options, especially because each specialist may not even realize the potential superior options another professional might be able to assist with in a particular situation. Thus, by using the resources provided by this white paper, a business can gain insight into the various potential solutions for its issue.