Israel: Shaming On The Internet And Social Networks – The Business Aspect

Last Updated: 13 February 2017
Article by Dotan Baruch

You have tirelessly invested time, money and significant efforts in order to create a business and to grow it, and you finally see the fruits of your labor and maybe even begin to profit.

Yet all of this can disappear with the stroke of a pen (or a tap on the "enter" key). One unsatisfied customer uploads a hostile post about your business to a forum or a social network, and it goes viral and spreads throughout the internet like wildfire. Such a post can cause the near immediate collapse of a business. These posts can include a broad variety of claims – the service/product was deficient, prices are too high, opinions of the business owner are to the right/left of the political spectrum, the business owner promotes liberal/conservative legislation, the business employs someone who was (allegedly) convicted in the past of a crime, etc.

Unfortunately what often underlies these claims and this phenomenon (let us call it of business shaming) is competitors seeking to harm their competition.

So, how can business shaming be dealt with? What should you do with a harmful post published about your business?

It is important to be prepared in advance in order to deal with business shaming – both in a practical and a legal sense. In practical terms it is important to invest the time and effort required to locate the source of the incriminating post before it spreads across the internet, and to thwart it. Once the shaming appears on countless websites, the ability to deal with it practically is nil. Therefore it is crucial that you continuously employ someone to follow and monitor internet websites and social networks in order to locate a shaming post immediately after it is uploaded. Once a shaming post is identified, you must immediately present counter claims or proof to counterbalance the shaming. It is not necessary at this stage to present the entirety of your defense, but rather to present that one point, precisely and briefly, that has the capacity to convince internet or social network users that the shaming has no basis.

From a legal aspect, it is possible to engage with the website or social network on which the business shaming was published, and request that they remove the harmful post as soon as possible. You should clarify that you are speaking of a libelous publication (assuming this is the case) and that such post has devastating potential for your business, which could cause significant damages and create a cause of legal action. At the same time, you should attempt to try to locate the author of the harmful content and consider submitting a libel action against him personally. However, it is important to note that currently there is no law that can be used to compel internet service providers and website owners / operators to furnish you the details of the author of such post.

The best remedy for business shaming is a quick and decisive response intended to block or prevent the continued spread of the harmful post. A delayed reaction, after the virtual horse has left the stables and is galloping across the internet, will not rectify the damage done. Time is, as always, of the essence.

Originally published January 17, 2016

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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