Your Business Competitor May Be Defaming You Online

Online defamation has increased exponentially with different review sites such as Yelp and websites like Ripoff Report whose stated purpose is “By consumers, for consumers.”[1] You will see that Internet trolls are able to attack companies, your brand, and even individuals while appearing to remain anonymous.

My firm has had many clients come to us for these exact issues. Sometimes the client tries to contact the website directly, only to find that the website posted the desperate plea of our client to remove the offensive and defamatory content. Now the client’s problem is compounded.

Your Business Competitor May Be Defaming You Online image Depositphotos 8357879 xsYour Business Competitor May Be Defaming You Online

Law firms across the United States have tried to sue websites, including Ripoff Report and Pissed Consumer, for offensive and defamatory content posted on their websites. Each time the case is thrown out because the host website is immune under §230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”).[2] The CDA shields these websites and their owners from liability for Internet postings if they meet the following criteria:

  1. The website an interactive service provider;
  2. The legal claims are based on a posting that neither the website or its owner posted; and
  3. The claims would treat the website as the “publisher or speaker” of such information.[3]

Many people have tried to sue Ripoff Report and its owner Ed Madgeson, but neither have been held liable for the Internet postings/content of others because of the CDA’s immunity provision.[4]

Online Reputation Management is a excellent way to clean up your online reputation, but we also find that our clients want to discover who posted the offensive and defamatory materials and sue them for damages. Generally, the only company or person which can be found liable for the offensive and defamatory postings/content is the one who actually posted it to the website.

This is Part 1 of a two part series. Part 2 will explain how we help our clients discover who is behind the anonymous Internet postings and sue them for the damage that they have caused our clients. The process begins with suing a “John Doe” (the anonymous person) and serving subpoenas to discover the IP address linked to the posting. Then, the IP address identifies who created the defamatory content, which allows our client to sue the author of the defamatory content.

[1] http://www.ripoffreport.com.

[2] 47 U.S.C. § 230.

[3] See Doctor’s Assocs., Inc. v. QIP Holders, LLC, No. 06-cv-1710, 2007 WL 1186026, at *2 (D. Conn. Apr. 19 2007)(citing Universal Commc’n Sys., Inc. v. Lycos, Inc., 478 F.3d 413, 418 (1st Cir. 2007)).

[4] Xcentric Ventures, L.L.C. v. Borodkin, 908 F. Supp. 2d 1040 (D. Ariz. 2012).

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