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
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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