Consumers increasingly turn to the internet to find businesses, services, and products to buy. Consumer reviews are a big part of that process, and serve as a fundamental metric of the business' brand. They often drive someone's final decision about whether to, for example, go to a particular restaurant, buy a certain product, or hire a company to renovate their bathroom.
With so much emphasis on online reviews, they can be incredibly damaging when they negatively portray a business. A bad review can cost a business thousands of dollars over the long run.
Unfortunately, some negative online reviews are completely groundless. Some are fabricated by people with a grudge against the business, while some other reviews are actually made by competing businesses in an attempt to get a leg up on their competition.
What Amounts to Defamation?
Not all negative reviews amount to defamation. Some negative reviews can even have some merit to them.
However, an online review goes too far when it states a verifiable fact that harms the business' reputation and can be proven false. These reviews can amount to defamation or libel. The person or party behind them can be held accountable for damaging a company's reputation with their lies.
In some cases, like when a competing business is behind the libelous claims, it can even be an unfair trade practice.
Many times, there is little doubt that the statement is libelous. Identifying the person behind them and holding them accountable for their actions, however, can be very tricky.
Identifying the Speaker
Finding out who was behind the defamatory statement that is harming your business is not always easy. On the internet, few people use their real name, especially when they are defaming a business.
This creates a very practical problem that many business owners do not know how to overcome. To make matters even more frustrating, many business owners have a pretty good idea of who was behind a particular negative review. Unfortunately, their suspicions are rarely good enough to justify further action. Better proof is usually needed.
That proof can often be uncovered by finding the speaker's IP address – the unique number assigned to their device when it connects to the internet. Very few internet users think to mask their IP address when they are online. Internet defamation lawyers can use the IP address associated with a particular online review to subpoena the internet service provider (ISP) for the records related to that IP address. This can uncover the true identity of the person behind the defamatory statement.
Filing a Defamation Lawsuit
Once the speaker is known, the next step is to get the defamatory review taken down. In many cases, a strongly worded letter to the person behind the review is enough to convince them to remove their own review.
In many cases, this is the end of the conflict. However, if the business owner wants to try to recoup their business' losses stemming from the negative review, or if the speaker refuses to take their review down, the next step would be to file a defamation lawsuit.
If the business owner wants to take this route, their lawyer can file the complaint in court, serve it on the defendant, and begin the process of collecting evidence that proves that the statement was defamatory and damaging.
In many cases, a settlement is reached before the case makes it to the courtroom. However, the lawyers at the Katz Law Group are more than happy to take the case to trial and prove your claims in court.
Damages Available in a Defamation Claim
Successful internet defamation lawsuits end with the business owner recovering compensation, also known as damages. These typically include monetary payments to cover the business losses associated with the defamation, attorneys' fees, the removal of the content, as well as a court ruling that the statement was false and defamatory.
Internet Defamation Lawyers at the Katz Law Group
Internet defamation lawsuits involving a libelous online review are tricky – both legally and practically. Many statements are very clearly defamatory, but identifying and then holding the speaker accountable can be fraught with difficulties. Those practical considerations remain, even if the statement is only borderline libelous.
The internet defamation lawyers at the Katz Law Group represent business owners by removing libelous reviews, as well as by removing damaging information in news articles or defamatory social media posts.
Contact them online or call their law office at (508) 480-8202.