Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys

Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys

A Blog Focused on Strategies for Deleting Damaging Online Content

Best Practices, Worst Practices for Responding to Internet Defamation

Posted in Communications Decency Act, Defamation Removal, Internet Defamation General

There are a number of ways in which one can respond to internet defamation. There are also a number of ways not to respond.

Options for Responding to Internet LibelBelow is an overview of some different response options that affected parties should and should not consider.

How not to respond to online defamation

We have said repeatedly on our blog that solutions are fact-dependent. But there are several potential responses that companies and professionals (and their attorneys) should generally avoid.

For example, alleged victims of internet defamation must neither attempt to sue websites (or their parent companies) for third party users’ postings, nor threaten to file a lawsuit without an adequate legal basis.

Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), most websites today are shielded from liability content published by third party users of the websites.

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Removal Often the Best Solution for Online Defamation

Posted in Defamation Removal, Internet Defamation General

For businesses forced to deal with internet defamation, in our experience removal of the harmful content is generally the best solution.

Online defamation/libel removalSolutions are fact-dependent.  However, the longer false content remains online and can be seen by potential customers or clients, among others, the more damage it is likely to cause to a business.

Thus, to the extent possible, businesses should work to get false and defamatory content about them removed from the internet quickly, or potentially risk being indefinitely harmed.

Top search results akin to “storefronts”

For many businesses today, the search engine results pages (SERPs) pertaining to them—particularly each business’s first page on Google—are similar to brick-and-mortar storefronts.

In recent years, the first point of contact for many people with a company has been its first page of Google search results.  In other words, many consumers go online to conduct research about unfamiliar businesses and, therefore, first impressions of many businesses are often formed based on what people find atop the search rankings.

Positive and neutral results are obviously good, but negative results—in particular false content—can drive away large numbers of potential customers, not to mention possible employees or investors, among other parties.

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Defamation and Bad Faith Registration, Use of Domain Names Under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)

Posted in Competitor Defamation, Defamatory Websites, Domain Names, Other Internet Law Issues

Most internet defamation occurs on third-party websites – often through a Ripoff Report posting or other false review, for example.  However, some people are so intent on disparaging other professionals or companies that they will go as far as creating their own websites, registering carefully selected domain names and publishing content through them that is calculated to cause harm to those other people or companies.

Defamation and Domain Names

These individuals often register domain names that are identical or confusingly similar to the trademarks belonging to the targets of the websites.  Thus, in addition to the defamatory statements published online, there is also potential trademark infringement-related harm.

Like with more ordinary instances of online defamation, parties defamed through such websites located at the specially-registered domains can pursue the authors of the harmful content through traditional legal techniques.  However, in these instances, a defamed party might even seek to have the identical or confusingly similar domain names transferred to them (or just cancelled altogether).

This is a possibility under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (often abbreviated as UDRP), which is governed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and incorporated into each registrar’s domain registration agreements.  Specifically, an affected party can initiate a UDRP proceeding and aim to convince a neutral single- or three-member panel to rule in its favor.

‘Bad faith’ under the UDRP Policy

According to paragraph 4(a) of ICANN’s UDRP Policy, a complainant must prove the following three things to obtain an order that a domain name or multiple domain names should be transferred to them (or cancelled):

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How to Remove Defamatory Reviews From ComplaintsBoard.com

Posted in Complaint Websites, ComplaintsBoard.com, Defamation Removal, False Reviews

One of the more prominent consumer complaint websites out there is ComplaintsBoard.com.

Remove Defamatory ComplaintsBoard.Com ReviewIt might not have quite the brand name or search engine strength of Ripoff Report or even Pissed Consumer. Nonetheless, ComplaintsBoard.com is another popular destination for publishing complaints about businesses.

Self-branded as “The most trusted and popular consumer complaints website,” ComplaintsBoard.com is nonetheless similarly a destination for some bad actors to attack the reputations of businesses and professionals through defamatory postings.

Of course, the website’s Terms of Use prohibits defamation and similar bad acts; specifically, according to the Member Conduct section, users agree to both not defame others and publish defamatory material.

But this language has not deterred many people, including those who publish anonymous defamatory posts, thinking their identities cannot be uncovered.

Fortunately, ComplaintsBoard.com, operated by Mediolex Ltd. (which appears to be based out of Latvia) does entertain removal requests. However, as with most complaint websites, a complaining party must have obtained a valid court order.

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Employers Must Avoid ‘Retaliation’ If Suing Employees for Defamation

Posted in Employment Law, Internet Defamation General, Other Internet Law Issues

Employers are vulnerable to being the targets of negative online and social media postings, and sometimes these statements can give rise to defamation claims. However, an employer Employee Defamationconsidering suing a current or former employee for internet defamation must be careful if the (ex-)employee recently engaged in protected activity.

Under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees “have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

In other words, the NLRA protects employees from employer retaliation for engaging in certain activity. This might include employees publishing certain posts on social media or perhaps publishing an employer review on Glassdoor relating to issues such as wages or working conditions.

Thus, while there are situations in which an employer will have a good faith basis for bringing defamation claims against past or present employees, employers must not file an internet defamation lawsuit if it would be considered impermissible and unlawful retaliation.

As the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states on its website: “[t]he law forbids retaliation when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.”

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Internet Defamation and Anti-SLAPP Laws: A Look Back at the Washington Supreme Court’s 2015 Ruling Invalidating the State’s Anti-SLAPP Statute

Posted in Anti-SLAPP, Cases & Court Decisions, Internet Defamation General, Other Internet Law Issues

In late May 2015, the Washington Supreme Court became the first state to find an anti-SLAPP statute unconstitutional, striking down the rule codified as RCW 4.24.525.

Washington anti-SLAPPAt the time (and likely still today), free speech advocates expressed their disappointment in the ruling, believing that the state of Washington would leave media members and others who speak out publicly unprotected from lawsuits aimed at them for their public comments.

Nevertheless, it was a significant ruling and one that is worth a closer look.

Anti-SLAPP Overview

SLAPP is an acronym referring to a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” used as a means to silence critics. As stated in the notes accompanying RCW 4.24.525, SLAPPs are “typically dismissed as groundless or unconstitutional, but often not before the defendants are put to great expense, harassment, and interruption of their productive activities.”

The general idea is that a large company or other deep-pocketed plaintiff, unhappy with another’s public comments about them, will attempt to bury the defendant in costly litigation—often through a defamation and/or tortious interference-based lawsuit—and effectively chill the defendant’s speech.

In order to deter the filing of frivolous lawsuits, brought solely to burden defendants with high legal expenses and keep them from further speaking out against the plaintiffs, many states began enacting anti-SLAPP statutes in the early 1990s. Today, more than half of states have such statutes.

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Nev. Jury Awards Internet Defamation Plaintiffs $38.3 Million in Damages for Anonymous Websites

Posted in Cases & Court Decisions, Defamatory Websites, Internet Defamation General

Three-and-a-half years after filing a lawsuit over false allegations comparing him to Bernie Madoff, a California real estate professional and his company were recently awarded more than $38 million by a federal jury.

Internet Defamation Verdict and DamagesOn February 17, Bradley Cohen—founder and CEO of a Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm, Cohen Asset Management, Inc. (CAM)—and his company were awarded $35.3 million in damages for defamation per se and false light invasion of privacy, plus an additional $3 million in punitive damages.

In August 2012, Cohen and CAM filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, against a company, its owner and an employee, for comparing Cohen and CAM to Bernie Madoff and Madoff’s former company on a pair of websites. Madoff, of course, was sentenced to prison in 2009 for a maximum 150 years for running what is believed to be the largest financial fraud ever in the United States.

The first website (http://bradley-cohen.com) went live in April 2012 but was quickly removed by the web hosting company, according to the above-hyperlinked Law360 article. However, a second similar website (http://bradleyscohen.com) was anonymously-registered on May 2 and remains online as of the publication of this blog post.

This second website asks both “Is Bradley S. Cohen the Bernie Madoff of real estate?” and “Is Bradley S. Cohen the Next Bernie Madoff?,” followed by Cohen’s photo and Madoff’s mugshot, as well as a list of purported “alarming similarities” between Cohen and Madoff.

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Actor Can Proceed With Twitter Defamation Lawsuit, Likely to Unmask Anonymous Twitter User

Posted in Cases & Court Decisions, Identify Anonymous Defamers, News, Twitter

Actor James Woods, who sued an unknown Twitter user for $10 million last summer, is one step closer to unmasking that user’s identity.

Last Monday, Judge Mel Recana of the Los Angeles County Superior Court denied the defendant’s Special Motion to Strike, allowing Woods to go forward with his case against defendant John Doe — Twitter user “Abe List” (@AbeListed).

Twitter DefamationIn July 2015, the defendant tweeted, in reply to a Woods tweet, “cocaine addict James Woods still sniffing and spouting.”  Woods soon after filed a defamation lawsuit.

Earlier this month, the Court issued a tentative order indicating that it would grant the unidentified defendant’s Special Motion to Strike (and ultimately dismiss Woods’ lawsuit). However, Judge Recana—after hearing oral arguments and reconsidering the parties’ positions, including consideration of written testimony from a USC linguistics professor—decided that people would have read Abe List’s tweet as a statement of fact (that Mr. Woods was actually a cocaine addict).

Woods can now proceed with discovery and will likely be able to identify the person behind the Twitter handle @AbeListed. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the defendant had previously identified himself on Twitter as working in private equity in Los Angeles and purported to be a Harvard graduate.

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Employers Must Be Careful Using Non-Disparagement Clauses to Discourage Employees’ Negative Online and Social Media Posts

Posted in Employment Law, Other Internet Law Issues

In recent years, there has been backlash against non-disparagement clauses pertaining to online reviews, specifically those attempting to restrict honest—albeit negative—feedback about companies.  In fact, California passed a law in August 2014 prohibiting anti-negative review policies, while the Federal Trade Commission filed its first ever lawsuit over similar non-disparagement clauses last September.

Non-Disparagement ProvisionsBeyond potentially restricting the speech of customers, businesses must also be careful about non-disparagement clauses relating to employees, such as those incorporated in employee handbooks or other agreements.

Contracts and policies prohibiting or limiting workers from speaking about their employment, such as sharing information about wages—including on social media or other websites, such as Glassdoor—have drawn greater scrutiny from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in recent years.

In fact, in early 2013, an administrative law judge (ALJ) found that non-disparagement provisions incorporated in Quicken Loans, Inc. employment agreements (as well as Quicken Loans’ confidentiality clause) violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by restricting employees’ rights under Section 7 of the NLRA.

Under Section 7, employees have the right to choose to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” such as discussing wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of work with other employees. Section 8(a)(1) restricts employers from interfering with employees attempting to exercise their Section 7 rights.

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Devanney to Lead Upcoming Webinar on Strategies for Removing Defamation From the Internet

Posted in Defamation Removal, Webinars

On Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, Colleen Devanney will lead a webinar, entitled “How to Remove Defamation, Negative Reviews, and Other Damaging Content from the Internet.”  Devanney, who is leading Vorys’ internet defamation practice — will present from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. ET in the webinar hosted by the Clear Law Institute.

Internet Defamation Attorney Colleen DevanneyThe webinar is intended for attorneys, who can register through the Clear Law Institute website. The following is a general description of the webinar:

Many businesses are being damaged today by negative information published on the Internet.  Indeed, anyone with a motive to harm a business can easily do it by anonymously or pseudonymously publishing damaging content on complaint websites such as Ripoff Report and Pissed Consumer.  Search engines tend to give these websites high rankings for searches of business’s names.

Similarly, many businesses are being damaged by false and negative reviews on online review websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, which can lower businesses’ online ratings (which are also prominently displayed in search results).

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