You are a professional service provider and you pride yourself on the quality of your services. Odds are, you have a lot of experience and you’ve spent a great deal of time building your professional reputation in the community.
Then it happens.
You get hit with one or two negative reviews online about you or your business. You lose business and your reputation suffers immediately.
You get angry. Then you get frustrated. Then you get angry again. Then you begin to feel anxious. And eventually you feel helpless.
Well, I’m here to tell you that I understand your situation because I’m a service provider myself, and because I talk to people all the time who have been defamed online.
Because I know how you feel, I’m going to tell you a secret that is extremely effective in getting some customer review sites to remove defamatory material about you.
But before I share this gem with you, you need to understand a couple of things.
The first thing you need to know is that most customer review sites are unlikely to remove content about you unless you threaten to sue them. This is because they are shielded from liability by a federal law known as the Communications Decency Act.
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 ("CDA") is a federal law that is extremely protective of online speech. It was originally intended to regulate pornography on the Internet, but later was interpreted by courts to immunize Internet service providers from torts committed by users of their systems. It specifically says:
"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
This means generally that a plaintiff cannot sue the operator of a site (read: customer review site) for defamation for comments made by a third party (read: customer).
Second, you need to know that most customer review sites have counsel who deal with these kinds of situations on a daily basis and they are extremely reluctant to remove alleged defamatory reviews, unless they clearly violate the law.
So what is the best way to get customer review sites to remove alleged defamatory reviews?
Is it to send them a letter asking them nicely to remove the material? NO.
Is it to send them an e-mail alleging that the material violates their Terms Of Service? NO.
Is it to file a defamation lawsuit? Not necessarily.
The best way to get SOME customer review sites to remove alleged defamatory material is to allege a Misappropriation of Trade Name or Likeness.
Most customer review sites/directories make money by placing ads around customer reviews. I argue that these sites have not obtained permission from my clients to use their trade name or likeness for profit. I argue that this is an unfair business practice and that it violates the law. This strategy works. And the best part is that it is not subject to the overly broad protections of the Communications Decency Act.
This is one of the most powerful strategies I know to combat internet defamation on customer review/ratings sites bar-none. It does not require you to file a lawsuit or go after some anonymous individual.
One word of caution . . . Do not to use this tactic in every situation. Every case is different and I highly encourage you to speak to an internet defamation attorney; even if it’s not me.
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