In our digital age, online defamation can be life-threatening for a small business, which relies on word-of-mouth and reputation to attract new customers and retain current ones. Here are some suggestions for dealing with unfair and libelous online content.
Defamation is defined in the Free Dictionary as: “Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation …” Not to mention many businesses’ hard-won goodwill.
Although defamatory material usually surfaces through Internet searches, search engines don’t originate it and don’t have a mechanism for dealing with defamatory content. You, however, have options.
If you know who is defaming you, your first step should be to email the Web administrator, pointing out that you feel you are being libeled and why. This polite email (or perhaps your use of the word “libel”) might encourage the site’s administrator to remove the material. A stronger action would be a cease-and-desist letter.
An anonymous detractor is more complicated to fight. However, there are still PR counter attacks you can employ. For example, because of the way search engines work, you can bury the offensive comments by generating large numbers of positive stories about your organization. The negative comments remain accessible, but much less visible.
Robert Greene makes a good point in 48 Rules of Power; in Law 5, he says: “So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life. Reputation is the cornerstone of power … Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen.”