With the ever-expanding role of social media and the Internet, negative reviews can spread virtually unchecked. Some negative reviews are limited to statements of opinion, which generally are legally protected. However, companies and individuals increasingly are subject to attacks that include false statements constituting online defamation. The best strategies for combating online defamation involve both savvy legal and PR counsel, working in tandem, to provide effective relief.
The legal avenues for addressing defamatory comments and obtaining their removal from websites can be difficult to navigate. Generally speaking, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects websites where reviews may appear, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor, and Yelp, from liability for content posted by their users. This significant limitation of liability on the “publishers” of the defamation creates little incentive — and, arguably, a disincentive — for these entities to self-police their sites. Because of this, many sites require a court order or judgment before removing allegedly defamatory comments.