The Internet has become an essential part of our lives. Almost everything we do is connected to the Internet in some way or another. When people want to go out to eat, they check the Internet for restaurants, menus, and reviews. When someone wants to find a trendy new store, they check the Internet for photos, prices, and reviews. When someone wants to get a haircut or find a person to cut their lawn, they go on the Internet for reviews. The common thread between all of these different uses of the Internet is the ability to find a review of a product or service. While reviews are a wonderful way for people to give praise to their favorite businesses and services, it is also a way for people to air grievances they may have. While, some people have a legitimate reason to post a negative review, others do not and are only writing things about a person’s business and services as a way to hurt their business. Many of the popular review sites only require an email address and some basic information to make a post and some Internet users create fake reviews to attack businesses even if they do not have a reason to.
What can my Business Do to Stop Fake Internet Reviews?
What steps can you take if you find that your business is under attack from fake Internet reviews? Unfortunately, fake Internet reviews and websites that are designed to attack people are becoming more and more common. If you find that your business is being subjected to fake reviews there are a few things that you can do.
To begin, every review site has Terms of Service or TOS. A link to a site’s TOS can usually be found at the bottom of the website, although you may have to search through the website if it is not explicitly listed. Generally, the TOS will contain lists of things that the website allows users to say and do in their reviews. While each review site has different Terms of Service, many of the more reputable sites state that reviews which are personal attacks on an employee, defamatory, derogatory or attacks a person based on disability, race, ethnicity, religion or other factors, can have their reviews removed.
Depending on the website, if you contact a site because you believe a post has violated the terms of service, most websites will promptly remove the post. You may also choose to post a reply to the review publicly stating that you have requested it be removed as a violation of their TOS. However, if reporting the review to the website does not help there may be some legal actions you may be able to take.
The first step usually is to send a cease and desist letter, this letter is also known as a demand letter. Essentially, these letters inform the user that the user needs to stop and remove all negative reviews from the listed accounts or face future legal action. The next step you may choose to take could be filing an injunction.
What is an Injunction?
An injunction is a powerful legal tool that may stop a person from posting statements about you online. Essentially, an injunction is an order from the court that requires a person to do or to refrain from doing something, such as posting defamatory statements about you online. This is a very powerful legal tool, and it is one that the courts do not give out freely. Before you can receive an injunction from the court you will generally have to prove four essential elements.
- Ongoing damage- First, you have to prove some form of ongoing damage. To receive an injunction from the court, a business who wants to have content removed from the internet will have to show that their business or service will be harmed if the messages and reviews are allowed to stay on the internet.
- A probability of success on the merits – Second, you or your business will have to demonstrate you have a probability of success on the merits of the case. If you are trying to sue a person for defamation you will have to show that you are likely to win the defamation case.
- The balance of harm favors the person filing– The third element requires that you demonstrate you will suffer more harm than the person who posted the content. If a published statement is likely to cause long-term harm if not quickly removed, the statement may be a candidate for an injunction, provided that the other elements for an injunction are met.
- Public interest favors an injunction– Fourth, the public interest favors granting the injunction. When it comes to injunctions related to speech you will always have to contend with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution which generally provides for freedom of speech. In order to protect the rights of citizens to speak freely, you will have to demonstrate that by removing the content the public would be better off than if the content had remained online.
An injunction is a powerful tool because it is a court order that the user and arguably the site that the post is on must follow. If a person does not listen to the court and defies their order they may be fined or even placed in jail.
Have you or your Business Been Attacked by Fake Reviews?
If you have been defamed or attacked online, you want the online abuse to stop. The Internet defamation removal attorneys of Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis LPA can fight to get the offending content removed from websites. We are confident about our ability to get defamation or a piece of content removed from the Internet and guarantee the removal of the content. If we are unable to remove the content, we will refund your fee. To arrange a free, confidential legal consultation with Aaron Minc call 216-373-7706 today or contact us online.