The issue of online naming and shaming of people and businesses is rife and although venting rage and disappointment online can provide some emotional release and a warning to others, the risks are immense.
If you (or your business) are named online, whether in a blog, on a social media platform or on a website, and the things being said about you are misleading, damaging to your reputation, blatantly false or simply malicious, you may have legal rights against the person who posted the statements online. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is an easy road to travel though, as the tests to prove and the defences against legal actions in this area of law are challenging to overcome for plaintiffs and defendants alike. In fact as an eminent Supreme Court justice said to the writer in court recently, “defamation proceedings are a fools game”. Having said that, there are obviously situations where a person well and truly deserves justice and these are the matters the court will take seriously.
As is the case in many areas of law, resolutions to matters broadly referred to as “defamation matters” are often resolved by mediation or by consent on the doorsteps of the court because of the alarmingly high costs involved in pursuing matters that are often very difficult to prove. Issues such as finding real identities based on the IP addresses of the publishers of damaging content, the number of people who have viewed defamatory material and a raft of other matters such as damage suffered can be hotly contested over many months or years and once legal proceedings are instituted it is seldom as easy as “just giving up” – plaintiffs who wish to call an end to the fight may then be faced with an order to pay their opponent’s costs.
In many circumstances, the best solution to being victim to perceived defamation is spending a small proportion of what you would have spent on legal fees to engage an expert in SEM & SEO to spread the truth of the situation far and wide. You may find that this approach will send what was a second or third result on Google to the third or fourth page and statistically very few people even click that far – this may be a much more practically (and financially) achievable result than seeking the assistance of the higher courts in your state or territory.