The Internet is a bit like the old wild west, and sadly, people often post material about an individual, product, company, or service that is inaccurate or simply nasty. Businesses and individuals alike are struggling with how to best deal with online inaccuracy and defamation. The normal steps for dealing with defamation typically involve litigation, but this is not always realistic for Internet-based situations since the Internet is global, and not managed or governed by any single set of laws.
If you have the good fortune of being located in the same legal jurisdiction as the offending poster and their website hosting company, you might be able to successfully prosecute them; or at the very least, you might be able to get the webpage with the offending material taken down by the website host. Keep in mind that most defamation court cases require that you show that actual harm was done by the offending material, which can often be difficult.
Of course, even if you are able to remove the initial post, cross your fingers that it was not part of a syndicated blog using RSS feeds. If the posting was syndicated, it will truly be an uphill battle to track down and remove all copies.
But despite the fact that legal action is rarely successful, do not despair -- there are still some things that you can do!
1. Face it head on
If you see a webpage or blog post that contains inaccurate information, face it head on. Contact the poster, tell them why the information is inaccurate, provide sources if appropriate, and give them the opportunity to correct it. Keep your communication professional, and stick to the factual inaccuracies; do not get into a debate about opinions.
2. Do not argue; offer a solution
Instead If there is a problem that is highlighted in the post, such as a situation where you or your company failed to react in the appropriate manner, acknowledge the problem and offer a solution. If the original post was part of a blog, post a follow-up note after the problem is resolved so that others will know that the situation was corrected and resolved.
3. It is okay to apologize
There is nothing wrong with apologizing when a legitimate mistake is made. In fact, consumers typically respect an individual or company when they acknowledge their mistakes and apologize for any short comings.
4. Remain professional
Always stay professional. If the dialogue in a blog discussion degrades into a mudslinging fest, you should remain calm, take the high-road, and keep your comments and public statements professional.
5. Control search results
Let's face it, when something negative appears in the search engines as the result of your name, your company, or your product being searched, it can be very disconcerting. One solution is to create alternate search results, containing positive information, which will appear higher in the search results when those same keywords are searched. This sounds difficult, but really it is not. Use the standard Search Engine Optimization techniques, and watch the "positive" material inch up in the search engine rankings, which in turn forces those pages containing negative material to lower (and often ignored) positions.
None of us enjoys having our name, our company, or our product smeared and sullied online. Online libel is difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute. Learn to use the tools within your grasp to manage your reputation and minimize the impact of any defamatory comments.
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds, and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.© 2012 Sharon Housley
The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.