Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys

Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys

A Blog Focused on Strategies for Deleting Damaging Online Content

How Not to Deal With Negative Online Reviews: Addressing Online Criticism in Light of Pending Federal Legislation on Non-Disparagement Clauses

Posted in Businesses and Executives, False Reviews, Internet Defamation General, News, Online Reputation

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, the House of Representatives passed H.R.5111, better known as the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016.

Gag Order, Non-Disparagement Clause

The Consumer Review Fairness Act is a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting consumers who criticize businesses online. More specifically, the legislation is aimed at prohibiting businesses from inserting language in “form contracts” with customers—essentially non-disparagement clauses in customer agreements—that limits the ability of customers to speak (negatively) about businesses’ goods and services.

Some businesses utilize these clauses—which some refer to as “gag orders”—to preemptively avoid negative reviews, perhaps even burying the language in the agreements.

In December 2015, the Senate passed the Consumer Review Freedom Act, a bill similar to the Consumer Review Fairness Act. Now, H.R.5111 will return to the Senate for consideration.

The next step after the Senate would be for the President to sign the legislation into law.

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Subpoenas, Court Orders and the ‘Cable Privacy Act’: Identifying Anonymous Online Posters

Posted in Identify Anonymous Defamers, Internet Defamation General, Other Internet Law Issues

We have written about subpoenaing internet service providers (ISPs) for identifying information relating to internet protocol (IP) addresses used by their subscribers.  In that post, we mentioned that securing identifying information from cable operator ISPs generally requires obtaining a court order authorizing disclosure of the subscriber information.

Subpoena Cable Operator Internet Service ProviderTo briefly illustrate, say a party serves a valid subpoena on an entity (operating a website or other forum) to identify the unknown author of defamatory online content and that author does not object to the subpoena.

In response to the subpoena, the entity produces some information, most helpful of which is an IP address.  The party determines through an online search the ISP that owns the IP address is a cable operator.

That party then seeks to subpoena the cable operator for identifying information pertaining to the subscriber assigned the relevant IP address on the date and time in question.

To proceed with the subpoena to the cable operator in this hypothetical (assuming that the party can satisfy the standards for issuing a subpoena to the non-party), the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 essentially requires the party to obtain an order authorizing the ISP to disclose the requested subscriber information

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Online Copyright Infringement and the DMCA Subpoena

Posted in Other Internet Law Issues

Ordinarily, serving a subpoena to identify an anonymous internet poster requires first filing a lawsuit. In fact, we have published several posts about using subpoenas to identify unknown authors of internet defamation and have explained that the first step in the process is filing a complaint against the unknown poster.

DMCA Subpoena for Alleged Copyright InfringementThere is, however, a procedure pertaining to copyright law, in which a copyright owner can potentially identify an alleged infringer without filing a lawsuit and without a judge’s signature: the DMCA subpoena.

Digital Millennium Copyright

The DMCA—short for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—is a statutory mechanism (17 U.S.C. § 512) that copyright holders can use to notify online service providers of alleged copyright infringement.

The DMCA offers “safe harbors,” limiting the liability of service providers for third parties’ copyright infringement if they remove or disable access to copyright infringement in response to DMCA takedown notices.

Service providers (defined by § 512(k)(1)) include a number of different types of entities. The elements of a proper DMCA notification are listed at §512(c)(3). Various entities also list them in their’ legal/copyright policy sections (such as on the websites Ripoff Report and Glassdoor).

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Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys Blog Featured in Recent LXBN Story

Posted in Defamation Removal, Internet Defamation General

On April 9, 2014, we launched the Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys blog. Our goal was to serve as a go-to source for information and resources related to stopping internet defamation and removing disparaging content from the internet. 

Internet Defamation Removal AttorneysMore than two years and 130-plus blog posts later, we feel that we have met that goal. And we will continue to regularly publish content about recent cases and strategies for removing defamation from Google and various websites.

Our blog is powered by LexBlog, “the largest professional blog network,” which operates LXBN.  A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of being interviewed by LXBN’s editor, Zosha Millman, for an article about all things Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys blog.

For those who might be interested in Zosha’s article, we wanted to pass along a link to that story: “LexBlog Leaders: Vorys’ Internet Defamation Attorneys Build Out a Niche and a Practice.”  We also wanted to use this as an opportunity to thank our readers, including our subscribers.

About a year ago, our blog ranked No. 18 in site traffic volume out of nearly 1,000 blogs published by Am Law 200 firms, according to LexBlog’s “Am Law 200 Blog Benchmark Report 2015.”  We hope to continue to publish fresh content that both interests our readers (whether longtime subscribers or those who randomly stumble upon one of our articles) and also serves as a helpful resource for businesses and professionals concerned with potential internet defamation and related issues.

Devanney to Lead “How to Remove Defamation, Negative Reviews, and Other Damaging Content from the Internet” Webinar

Posted in Defamation Removal, Webinars

Colleen Devanney, who heads up Vorys’ internet defamation practice, is leading an upcoming online webinar presentation on defamation removal on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 3:00 ET.

Internet Defamation Attorney Colleen DevanneyThe webinar—entitled “How to Remove Defamation, Negative Reviews, and Other Damaging Content from the Internet”–will run approximately 75 minutes. A full course description and registration information for the webinar can be found on the Clear Law Institute website.

This Clear Law Institute-hosted webinar will feature more than an hour’s worth of discussion on strategies for removing harmful content from the internet, plus Devanney will lead a Q&A session at the completion of her presentation.

The webinar is intended primarily for attorneys. Information about CLE credit is also available on the hyperlinked webpage.

How to Stop (and Remove) Online Impersonations on Social Media, Other Websites

Posted in Cyberbullying, Facebook, Google, Other Internet Law Issues, Twitter, YouTube

Professionals and companies are being harmed online and on social media in a number of ways. One increasingly common form of online harassment is impersonation of the person (or company) that the harasser is intending to harm through the creation of fake public personas on social media platforms or websites. Remove impersonating accounts from social media

Major online and social media players like Google, Twitter and Facebook generally prohibit impersonations, or impostor accounts as they are known on Facebook

Unlike with standard internet defamation, professionals and companies can generally remove online impersonations without a court order.

Google+

Despite its relative lack of success, impersonations are fairly common on Google+. This includes people creating impersonating accounts in order to publish false Google reviews. Similarly, others might create a blog (through Google’s blog-publishing service, Blogger) about or in the name of the targeted person.

Google+’s User Conduct and Content Policy prohibits impersonations, specifically the use of Google+ “to mislead or confuse users by pretending to be someone else or pretending to represent an organization you do not represent.”  Thus, in response to a legitimate impersonation report about a Google+ account that is deceiving other users as to the user’s true identity, Google is typically willing to suspend the offending Google+ account.

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False, Negative Online Reviews Challenge Health Care Professionals and Health Care Providers

Posted in False Reviews, Health Care / Physicians, Internet Defamation General, Other Internet Law Issues, Review Websites

Online reviews affect nearly every industry, and health care is certainly one of them. What differentiates health care, in this context, is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA.

Health Care Defamation Online

Under HIPAA, a federal privacy law, health care professionals and providers are not allowed to disclose certain health information about patients without their authorization. This restriction has proven to be a challenge for many health care professionals and providers when it comes to addressing online reviews.

In fact, HIPAA has many in the health care industry feeling as though they have their hands tied behind their backs when it comes to dealing with negative and potentially defamatory online reviews.

In an interview with BuzzFeed for a 2014 feature on this very issue, one California neurosurgeon (who was the subject of an online harassment campaign himself) stated there was no way in 1996 that HIPAA could have anticipated online reviews and the resulting issues.

Responding publicly to false online reviews is risky

Many websites today suggest that business owners or others affected by online reviews simply respond and share their sides of the stories. Ripoff Report, for example, makes the following suggestions to the subjects of consumer complaints:

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Order Requiring Non-Party Yelp to Remove Defamatory Reviews Affirmed by California Appellate Court

Posted in Cases & Court Decisions, Communications Decency Act, Defamation Removal, Yelp

A California appellate court recently affirmed a lower court’s decision to require Yelp to remove three defamatory reviews. The First Appellate District did, however, remand the case to the trial court to narrow the terms of the removal order, which ordered Yelp to also remove potential future reviews.

Yelp Ordered to Remove Defamatory ReviewsThe court determined that the removal order was an overbroad prior restraint on speech. But many viewed the June 7, 2016 decision as a major loss for Yelp and a blow to the protections that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) provides to many websites.

Background

Dawn Hassell is the managing attorney of the Hassell Law Group, a California personal injury firm. Hassell and her firm represented Ava Bird during the summer of 2012.

However, after 25 days, Hassell withdrew from representation. In January 2013, Bird published a negative—and allegedly false—review about her experiences with Hassell and her firm.

Hassell attempted to speak with Bird about the Yelp review. Hassell’s call went unreturned. So her office sent Bird an email requesting that she remove the “factual inaccuracies and defamatory remarks” from Yelp.

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Removing Defamatory Statements From the Internet Using a Court Order

Posted in Defamation Removal, Google, Internet Defamation General

Most businesses and professionals defamed on the internet simply want the false content removed. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to obtain removal, one of which is through a court order.

Court Order re: False and Defamatory StatementsWebsites and other entities do not want to be tasked with having to weigh the facts of any situation and make a judgment call. Therefore, most will not delete content just because a party alleges a post is false.

Many websites will, however, remove content declared false by a court, even though court orders are typically against the actual posters of the content and not the websites themselves.

In short, court ordered removal involves obtaining a judgment against the poster of defamatory content online and then presenting the court order to the websites (or, when relevant, Google) on which the false content is appearing.

Obtaining a court order does involve filing an actual lawsuit with legitimate claims and pursuing the online poster. When a defendant is known (or the plaintiff can can identify the unknown person and name him or her a defendant), the parties might settle and each sign an agreed order. The parties can then present the order to the court for the judge to grant the requested judgment.

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Utilizing IP Addresses to Subpoena Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Posted in Identify Anonymous Defamers, Internet Defamation General

The majority of online defamation is posted anonymously or pseudonymously. Thus, many cases require issuing subpoenas—including to internet service providers (ISPs)—to identify the unknown posters.

Subpoena to Internet Service Provider

This process often involves obtaining internet protocol (IP) addresses from an entity, in response to an initial subpoena; determining the ISPs that own the respective IP addresses produced by the subpoenaed entity; and then issuing additional subpoenas to those ISPs.

Subpoena process generally

Individuals looking to attack others on the internet rarely use their real names or email addresses. In most cases, harmed parties cannot immediately identify the online posters with certainty, even if they have suspicions of the posters’ identities.

Therefore, to pursue legal claims against a presently unknown poster, it might be necessary for a defamed party to first issue a subpoena to the relevant website (or its parent company) for documents containing certain identifying information. This generally includes basic contact information and IP addresses – subject, of course, to the information that websites actually require users to provide for account registrations.

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