As users of the internet, we are allowed to publish any content we choose, as long as it’s truthful and appropriate. There are many who don’t handle this privilege responsibly and forget that their post or comment can have a significant impact on an individual's livelihood. 

Victims of online defamation should know of ways they can halt the spread of these false accusations. 

Here are some PR and legal strategies to be aware of: 

  • Save the false material whether you plan to take legal action or not. You may not initially consider a lawsuit. However, if your business is impacted enough, you want to have the evidence on hand. 

  • Address the website’s host before taking legal action. In the long run, you can save your business some money if you show that the post made was false or violated the website’s terms of service. 

  • Hire a PR firm to help you with next steps. Industry professionals can provide assistance to the legal team, as well as publish material to reestablish your company’s integrity. 

  • File a “John Doe” lawsuit in your state, if applicable. This is a last resort option and should only be used if your company and profits have been severely impacted. If approved, this helps you locate the IP address associated with the post, which is connected to the legal name and physical address of the individual who engaged in defamation. After verifying their identity, modify the lawsuit to include the responsible individual as a named defendant. 

  • Show proof of the damage to your profits and client base. Presenting the court records of the damage resulting from the defamatory post will strengthen your case.

  • Request that defamatory statements be de-indexed voluntarily by the search engines. This means the post will continue to exist online but not appear in the search index. 

  • A company can never predict if or when online defamation will occur. Still, knowing how to take action will prepare you to be confident if this situation does occur. You should always have a crisis communication plan in place.

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