Learn how to remove online defamation once and for all to protect your business reputation on the web.
The internet and social media have upped the game when it comes to being a breeding ground for fake news, misleading information and false and defamatory content that could damage a business’s offline and online reputation. A former employee, for example, may feel his or her firing was wrongful and post defamatory content that shows up in search results when individuals look for information about your company. A customer may be unhappy with your product and disparage it, or allege you are responsible for an accident or an incident that occurred and post negative content online.
With so much content available on the internet — from social media platforms to content-aggregation sites and online commentary — it’s difficult for consumers to separate fact from fiction and determine what are false statements. In fact, there are websites built to encourage and incentivize the dissemination of sensational information, with no fact-checking or regulation involved.
To keep a positive online reputation, businesses should have an online reputation management plan in place that can remove defamatory content from the internet, and help to continue to maintain a credible and trusted brand.
How Search Engines Work
Let’s take a quick look at how a search engine works when an individual is looking to find out more about a business before purchasing a product or service, going to a restaurant or hotel, investing money, seeking law advice, choosing a physician, etc.
A search engine like Google operates by crawling billions of pages with web crawlers that they have developed. These are also known as search engine spiders or bots. A search engine spider then navigates the web by following links on newly discovered web pages to locate new pages, and so on.
A search engine uses proprietary algorithms for content to appear at the top of the search results page. Some prioritize content quality, while others prioritize user experience and link building.
If, for example, someone writes a bad review on an authoritative site (like Yelp) about a company or tweets a post about a CEO’s actions or inactions, it could well appear in the search results. Even worse, if there are posts accusing individuals of being drug abusers or crooks, these allegations could end up appearing prominently in their individual results and company results.
Paying attention to search engine results, therefore, is critical in ensuring a positive reputation and removing defamatory content.
What Is Online Defamation/Social Media Defamation
Online defamation is typically defined as a false, published statement injurious to the plaintiff’s reputation. Social media defamation is a false statement of fact about a third party published on a social media website, platform, or app like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Some of the most common ways that someone can be defamed on social media include:
- Defamatory statements made on a person’s Facebook profile
- Negative content or a fake photo posted in a Facebook group
- A negative tweet posted on a person’s Twitter profile or company’s Twitter page
- Fake Facebook business page reviews
- Negative comments on a blog post, video, or tweet, etc.
- Fake Instagram photo and/or caption
- A fake video uploaded to YouTube or TikTok
Impact on Business of Defamatory Content Online
You may think who pays attention to what is being said online or it’s a matter of free speech and there isn’t much you can do about defamatory content lodged against you and/or your company. But the impact of negative content about you or your business is far-reaching:
- Your personal and business reputation will suffer. Your coworkers, friends, and family members may read or hear about the negative content, and if they believe what is being said, your reputation and relationships could be irreparably damaged. Internet defamation and negative content will also impact prospective business relations. Anyone with whom you’re interested in doing business with will perform due diligence to find out more about your business as well as about you. If negative, defamatory content is out there, you could well lose new and existing business opportunities.
- Loss of revenue and profits. Potential customers may believe malicious lies and avoid doing business with you if defamatory statements about your company exist online. This includes false or disputed accusations of wrongdoing, false online reviews, or the airing of personal laundry online (like a divorce or custody case).
- Mental health issues. The negative consequences for your reputation, relationships, and professional life may also have an impact on your well-being. Dealing with unseemly accusations or negativity in general takes a toll on individuals. Many victims of defamation suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression.
What Can You Do About Defamatory Content?
Hire Internet Attorneys
You could threaten to file a lawsuit and have an attorney send a well-written letter asking for the offending content to be removed by the party. If you get no response, you may then consider taking legal action and hire an experienced attorney in internet defamation to file a defamation lawsuit. Internet defamation lawyers may file civil liability lawsuits against the individual who defamed you. This, however, will be quite expensive as you will incur significant legal fees. In the end, you may not be successful in winning the suit or getting a court order for content removal.
Individuals who have been victimized by online defamation have also opted to sue their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the website that hosts the defamatory content in question, such as Facebook, Google, or Yelp. These sites owned by large corporations have deep pockets, which is why individuals go after them in the first place. But a defamation attorney and his/her legal team will be costly for you to see your legal claims through to fruition. It’s prudent to first ask for a free consultation on your potential defamation case to see if it would be worth taking legal action and inquire about the legal costs involved.
It’s important to note that while the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, it still allows individuals who publish false statements to be sued for defamation. However, you will not succeed in an online defamation claim if the defendant’s defamatory content is true. It has to be a knowingly false statement that was made for defamation claims to have any traction.
Also, social media and review sites are not legally obligated to remove defamatory content. Under internet marketing law, the sites are protected from defamation lawsuits as per Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
You can also contact the owner of the website where the negative content resides or the content provider or domain provider to ask if they will remove the information from the source.
Flag Harmful Content
In some cases, you can report or flag negative material and request defamatory content be removed as long as the content violates the social media site’s terms of service or standards. This includes no nudity, violent content, racist remarks, and bullying statements. You will have to explain why it’s considered internet defamation. Unfortunately, social media sites often don’t want to take a stance on what is being posted nor do they want to judge what is defamatory content or not. They will leave it up to the legal system to issue a court order to remove the content. In the meantime, the content continues to come up in internet search results while you wait for a decision to be made.
If you can prove a copyright violation, trademark infringement, or content consisting of infringing material, Google will remove content from its search results (per the DMCA takedown notice). Google, however, frequently places a message at the bottom of the search result page informing the online world what was done.
Remove Online Content from the Internet
You can hire a professional online reputation management (ORM) company for content removal of defamatory material and put into place a content strategy designed to garner positive results for yourself and your business. First and foremost, an ORM will conduct a thorough online search of your business and senior management. Google’s search results, as well as the results of other search engines, will provide a clear picture of the firm’s online reputation as well as vet any negative content.
The ORM will continually monitor your digital presence across numerous websites and in online searches to identify potential threats and alert you to any negative content or libelous statement. There are several ways to remove online defamation from the internet including adopting a strategy that identifies and promotes positive content to overtake the negative material that comes up in search engine results. Here are a couple of tactics:
- Analyze existing content, including its search engine optimization (SEO), on social media, blogs, articles, and Wikipedia. Understand what people are searching for and what the search engines deem worthy of high-page ranking in, for example, Google search results. What makes specific content rank better than other materials?
- Create high-quality and relevant content for the business that will begin to replace the negative content (business complaints, intentionally false statements, etc.) online. For example, perhaps you are very involved in a specific charity but there isn’t much about this. Content (press releases, blogs on your website, posts on company social media pages) around your philanthropic work will be developed. Articles related to your expertise will also be written and published in online well-established magazines. Bios will be updated and optimized and posted online. The goal is to get Google and the others to consider more factors when determining what goes on page one of search results.
It’s also important to promote new content to help with getting positive info online. Realize this takes time and expertise, but an experienced ORM will guide you through the strategies it will employ.
One thing you can do on your own is to consider adjusting your social media privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. The more data that is private, the harder it is to access confidential information by bad actors who want to cause you harm. Also, be thoughtful about what you share on your social media networks. Think before you make a comment, even if what you have to say is true and you’re trying to set the record straight. There are so many internet trolls today just ready to pounce and cause havoc.
To learn more about online privacy and how to remove online defamation on the web, contact EraseComplaints today at 888-600-7409.