As a business owner, you understand the importance of online reviews. You understand that positive reviews can drive additional business to your establishment and boost profits. However, you also understand that a fake negative reviews can cause significant damage not only to your company’s reputation but also to its bottom line. Therefore, you always strive to provide a stellar customer experience. For the few customers who may have had a bad experience, you do everything you can to ensure that their complaints are addressed and that they have an excellent experience the next time they come into your business.
After working with the unhappy customers and encouraging repeat visits, it comes as a surprise that there is a disturbing trend of negative reviews for your business. You wonder how is it possible that all of these customers are having bad experiences without you noticing any problems? Over time, you come to realize that these negative reviews are fake. You don’t know who is posting the false and defamatory reviews, but you want to get to the bottom of the situation and protect your business.
The Internet defamation removal attorneys of Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis, LPA understand the concerns of business owners facing online defamation. We may be able to engage in aggressive, strategic action to remove the false reviews and identify the party or parties that are posting false reviews. To discuss how our lawyers may be able to help you handle false reviews made by a malicious party or parties, call 216-831-0042 or contact us online today.
Identifying the poster of false and defamatory reviews can require a significant amount of legal work. Unfortunately for the targets of the defamation, most online review sites, user-generated content websites, and Internet service providers (ISPs) are protective of the identity of their users. Therefore, a multi-step approach to uncovering the identity of the poster is usually required.
To start, you will generally need to subpoena the website where the comment or review was posted to obtain the IP address of the poster. To obtain this information you will need to make a sufficient legal showing and secure a valid court order compelling the site to provide this information. If you are able to obtain the poster’s IP address you will then need to file a second subpoena with a court to force the ISP to link the IP address with one of its subscribers. At this point, you will have the identity of the individual who made false negative postings about your business. You will still have to continue to engage in the legal process to hold this individual liable for his or her actions.
Many business owners want to know who exactly they can hold liable for the fake negative reviews. Many business owners think along the lines of the more defendants that can attach to a potential lawsuit and the deeper pockets those defendants have, the better. While this mindset isn’t totally off-base in many legal matters, there are certain unique aspects about online defamation that changes the legal thinking.
One of the unique aspects is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It provides broad immunity for user-generated content websites including online review websites. These websites cannot be held liable for the content that others post on them. You can think about this immunity in the sense that you would not sue the phone company for another person’s fraudulent or misleading statements made over the phone. A similar principle guides here and lawsuits against the actual review site or other platform are almost certain to fail and may even create legal liability due to a counterclaim.
You can, however, hold the individual poster liable for his or her defamatory posts. In certain circumstances, it may make sense to take legal action to hold the party posting false reviews liable. For instance, when a rival business owner engages in a smear campaign against your business it may make financial and legal sense to hold the defaming party liable. In other circumstances, it may make less sense to file legal action against the defamer and you may be better served by simply working to remove the false reviews. However, this determination often cannot be made until you identify the reviewer who is making false anonymous reviews.
If your business has been attacked with fake reviews online by anonymous reviewers, the Internet defamation removal attorneys at Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis, LPA may be able to fight to protect your company. We can take steps to reveal the identity of the reviewer and discuss your options regarding holding the attacker liable for his or her actions. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation call 216-373-7706 or schedule an appointment online today.