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Online defamation

Online defamation could cause great reputational but also an emotional distress due to the harassment.

Online defamation, is often used for the role purpose of harassing the victim. Online defamation is often directed at the most unexpected victim.

What is online defamation and why online defamation is a form of harassment

If you or your organisation have become a target f online defamation, or where you are aware that an attack on your reputation is imminent you need to consider the harassing impact on you, on your family and on your employees.

It is more common, than most people think, for CEOs of large organisations to be harassed through Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and websites just because of the position they hold in the company.

Most recent examples of online defamation campaigns , that had been created against company directors, include a campaign against the CEO of a large lender, by a customer who convinced himself that he was mis-sold a mortgage, against an MD of a listed gold mining company by a disgruntled shareholder and against an owner of an airline, by a jealous competitor.

Online defamation campaigns, particularly when directed against an senior officer of a company, who otherwise leads a private life, have the most devastating impact on the unsuspected victim and her family. Online defamation against a company can be handled under a specific company law that is designed to protect company directors from being unduly influenced or take decisions under unfair pressure. If you are facing the prospect of an online defamation campaign or if you are already defamed, you might wan to seek immediate defamation legal advice advice with specific emphasis on PR and reputation crisis management.

What is online defamation

Online defamation refers to any untrue statement posted in an online context that causes or is likely to cause serious harm to someone's reputation or to their business.

Libel defamation is in written form, including defamation published online and electronically by email or apps and slander is in verbal form of defamation. In the context of online defamation, you might be dealing with both forms of defamation simultaneously.

The potential consequence of a single defamatory post or publication can be catastrophic to once's reputations within seconds, if the defamation appears online or electronically.

Taking legal action for online defamation

Before starting legal proceedings for defamation it is important to ensure that both the individual affected and her organisation are well prepared for the different stages of the process. You need to pay particular attention to the balancing act between the possibility of containing the current instances of online defamation and the likelihood PR consequences following a successful and an unsuccessful outcomes.

You and your lawyer must carefully assess the likelihood of success and through simulation play different PR scenarios and prepare for them. Your lawyer should have sufficient experience in the legal side and the public relations side of combating a case of online defamation.Some traditional defamation lawyers don't always appreciate the specific impact of the defamation and harassment campaigns being carried out online.

Taking legal action for online defamation may not be the most sustainable way to protect your personal or your organisation's reputation but it could certainly bring an end to an harassment campaign. Here is an example of a successful outcome following a campaign of online defamation against alarge company.

Why you need to react fast to online defamation

As soon as you discover that someone is defaming you or your business on the internet, it is important to act now. First, there is a limitation period of 12 months from the date of first publication to bring a defamation case but as a victim of online defamation, you are expected to mitigate your loses by acting expeditiously.

In case of online defamation on social media, it is important to bring to an end the speedy dissemination of the information before things get out of control. Often by closing down one or two social media accounts and by sending the right message to a few more followers, it is possible to shut down an entire social media defamation campaign.  

Gather as much evidence as you can,as soon as possible, because we need to get the defamatory information off the internetbefore Google or other search engines put it into their search results. Other search engines may take a while to index the defamatory web pages but as long as it takes, it takes the same amount of time to remove also, so this reiterates the need to act rapidly. We need to ensure that all snippets of online defamation and links are removed, too and that is something that again, needs technical expertise and experience.  

Once you are ready, in most cases you can apply for an Online harassment injunction it is possible, yet, more difficult to obtain an emergency injunction to stop defamation only or where the element of harassment is minor.

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