Table of Contents
- The Basics: What is Scam.com?
- The Web 2.0, and the Evolution of User-Generated Content Platforms
- Can I Hold Scam.com Liable for Defamatory and Libelous Online Content?
- Removing Scam.com Content and Holding Individuals Liable
- Reach out to Experienced Defamation Removal Attorneys to Remove Malicious and Libelous Content
The Basics: What is Scam.com?
Although a user-generated content website, Scam.com is somewhat of a throwback and replica of late 1990s, and early 2000s, web forums. Instead of evolving with the likes of other user-generated content platforms, Scam.com opted to keep their classic, and dated, vBulletin board, dishing on every scam and business trick in the book, including:
- Multi-Level marketing scams,
- Internet scams,
- Religious scams,
- Work-at-home scams,
- Investment scams,
- Science scams,
- Corporate scams,
- Mortgage scams,
- Contest scams.
As of January, 27th, 2018, Scam.com boasts over 53,000 threads, 735,000 posts, and 313,000 members, making it a hotbed for scam-reporting and business reviews. According to Alexa.com, an American website providing web traffic data and analytics, Scam.com receives the majority of their traffic from U.S. visitors (71%), with the second highest amount coming from India (3.2%).
Unfortunately, not all websites who start with an honest and transparent message in mind, continue down that path. Over the years, Scam.com has slowly departed from their once honest message, and crossed the line, allowing false, defamatory, and unwarranted attacks to run rampant in their forums, and damaging and destroying countless reputations and businesses. Additionally, Scam.com posts mugshots, another highly criticized industry, due to the refusal by most mugshot websites to remove arrest and photo records after charges have been dropped, expunged, or the party was found not guilty.
Online Reputation Management Tip: An easy (and free!) way to suppress negative online search results damaging you or your business’s reputation is to create and highlight positive information. Some common tactics include: publishing original content (especially blogs), linking to authoritative websites and between social media profiles, proactively responding to criticisms and attacks, and continued building of online professional relationships.
If you, or your business, has been targeted of malicious online posters and defamed online, the Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys of Minc, LLC will fight to permanently remove any posts in order to protect and restore your reputation. At Minc Law, our team of Northeast-Ohio lawyers have a nearly 100% removal rate, and will personally work with site administrators, content managers, and third-party arbitration services to secure a seamless removal, and all for a flat, reasonable fee.
Defamation Law Removal Tip: Posting mugshots online is not illegal, as they are property of the public record and available to the general public. However, mugshot websites often charge removal fees, which is highly unethical and borders on extortion. Due to mugshot sites falling within a grey area, Google has taken steps towards decreasing the visibility of mugshots, altering their search algorithms to make sure such pictures don’t appear on the first page of search results when searched by name.
The Web 2.0, and the Evolution of User-Generated Content Platforms
The Internet has taken various shapes and forms over the years, evolving into its present adaptation, where users, not organizations or businesses, are the primary drivers and creators of content.
The Internet’s first step in evolution manifested itself in the form of “The Web 1.0,” where content creators were limited, and the majority of users were passive consumers of it. However, in the late 90s and early 2000s, static pages, basic programming languages, and online guestbooks, were replaced by social networking sites, hosting services, and the topic of this post, user-generated content platforms, ultimately, changing the very way we use and view online content.
Instead of being told about politics, current events, and other highly contentious social issues, users were now able to craft their own narrative on whatever they wanted. Mass distribution of information was positive in the way that it led to a more informed reader, but also brought never-imagined negatives and consequences, such as using the Internet as a malicious platform to defame and attack others. Users began using user-generated platforms for everything imaginable, including reporting on and exposing the latest scams, rip-offs, and bad faith business dealings.
Defamation Law Tip: Defamation can be broken into two forms; libel and slander. Libel is the written publication of a false statement causing damage to a person’s reputation, while slander is a spoken publication. In order for a plaintiff to succeed in their defamation claim, they must prove the following four elements: i. A false statement was made purporting to be fact, ii. The statement was published to a third-party, iii. The defendant’s conduct amounted to at least negligence, and in certain cases actual malice, and iv. Damages.
Can I Hold Scam.com Liable for Defamatory and Libelous Online Content?
Scam.com’s vBulletin message board allows users to act as the driving force behind what information is disseminated, and is systematically structured, providing users with a straightforward, easy-to-use interface. The site labels itself as “the best whistleblower message board to expose scams, rip offs, & scammers,” invoking a sense of vigilante justice in each and every poster, subsequently, jeopardizing you and your business’s reputation and future.
Although most Scam.com posters and users are legitimately searching and posting information regarding real scams and hustles they’ve personally encountered, there’s still a significant percentage of users who use the platform to push their own malicious agendas by attacking innocent people and businesses.
Simply put, you cannot hold Scam.com liable for defamatory online content. A defamed party may not hold Scam.com and other user-generated content websites liable for defamatory online content.
As a user-generated content platform, Scam.com receives broad protection and immunity under a landmark piece of Internet legislation titled “The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA).” Scam.com recognizes their relative blanket protection as a third-party platform, as expressed in their Terms of Service (TOS):
“Although the administrators and moderators of scams will attempt to keep all objectionable messages off this site, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the author, and neither the owners of scams, nor vBulletin Solutions, Inc. (developers of vBulletin) will be held responsible for the content of any message.”
In the above passage, Scam.com alludes to Section 230 of the CDA, the governing clause of user-generated platform immunity, which reads:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Defamation Law Tip: “Defamation Per Se” is a legal concept classifying certain statements as so intrinsically malicious, that the plaintiff need not prove actual damages or injury. Such statements include: i. A false statement alleging a plaintiff has engaged in criminal activity, ii. A false statement alleging a plaintiff possesses a loathsome disease, most likely an STD or leprosy, iii. A false statement alleging a plaintiff is “unchaste,” or has engaged in sexually promiscuous conduct, and iv. A false statement alleging a plaintiff has engaged in conduct incompatible with that of his business, profession, or trade.
User-generated content platform immunity has been upheld in several important legal cases, specifically;
- Carafano v. Metrosplash.com: Also known as the “Star Trek actress case,” Carafano v. Metrosplash.com is a 2003 popular legal case where a false online dating profile was created defaming actress and singer Christianne Carafano, now Chase Masterson. A 9th Circuit Court found that although Matchmaker.com, an online dating site, provided an interactive computer service where users were prompted with multiple choice questions when creating their profile, they still enjoyed protection under Section 230 of the CDA because the content was created by a third-party.
- Blumenthal v. Drudge: A 1998 case involving online service provider and instant messaging platform AOL and reporter Matthew Nathan Drudge, where Drudge wrote a malicious piece accusing Blumenthal of assaulting his wife. The piece was posted on AOL’s website, and Blumenthal brought suit against both Drudge, and AOL. Ultimately, the court upheld AOL’s immunity under the CDA, as Drudge was an independent contractor, and AOL was not the actual content provider.
As long as Scam.com and other user-generated content platforms abstain from adding any original comment or edits to content posted by third-parties, they will continue to receive blanket protection and immunity under the CDA, leaving only one party to go after; the malicious poster.
Ohio Defamation Law Fact: When bringing a libel, slander, malicious prosecution, or false imprisonment claim in Ohio, plaintiffs must bring their claim within one (1) year of the date the cause of action accrued, also known as the time when the plaintiff first discovered the injury.
Removing Scam.com Content and Holding Individuals Liable
While the Communications Decency Act provides protection and a safe harbor for user-generated content platforms, it does not protect individuals who abuse such platforms by posting false, unwarranted, and libelous attacks against innocent persons and businesses.
You can hold individual malicious posters liable, but it can be difficult.
Unfortunately, Scam.com’s design and verification procedures complicate the identification process, as they allow for anonymous pseudonyms and a relatively basic registration process. Users register by creating an anonymous handle, also known as their username, and post reviews, comments, and articles under it. Although the site does require an email address, there are no indications a user’s email is used for verification purposes, allowing users and malicious posters to sign up under the guise of a “throwaway email,” and thus making one’s true identity more difficult to ascertain.
Furthermore, Scam.com’s site policies aren’t particularly well-developed or fleshed out, and most of the content appearing under their FAQ section is a stock copy of any run-of-the-mill vBulletin operated website. Under their “Dealing with Troublesome Users” section of their FAQ, they provide some information about blocking a user’s post, but not removing it permanently. Blocking may act as a temporary, and immediate victory, but still doesn’t prevent malicious and false information from circulating and spreading online. Additionally, their option for reporting content isn’t clear, and it’s unknown whether any guidelines, or time-frames, for removals exist beyond this statement:
“You will find ‘Report’ links in many places throughout the board. These links allow you to alert the board staff to anything which you find to be offensive, objectionable or illegal.”
Due to the complex and unclear nature and of Scam.com’s removal and reporting policies, it is highly recommended you reach out to an experienced defamation removal attorney. At Minc Law, we know how to navigate user-generated platforms in order to find the quickest and most effective way to permanently remove content. Aaron and his Ohio-based team of lawyers have dealt with countless removals, and have nearly a 100% removal rate, and all or a flat, reasonable fee. Reach out today to get started.
Defamation Law Fact: “Defamation Per Quod” is the exact opposite of defamation per se, and occurs when there is no obvious or apparent damage and injury. Plaintiffs are required to provide additional evidence and prove monetary and general damages, as opposed to an implied presumption of special damages in defamation per se cases.
Reach out to Experienced Defamation Removal Attorneys to Remove Malicious and Libelous Content
Scam.com is a reminder of the freewheeling days of a once immature Internet framework, allowing anonymous users to maliciously attack innocent parties online, with little to no repercussions.
If you have been targeted by online defamation on Scam.com, or other review and scam-exposing sites, the Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys of Minc Law, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, will utilize a number of effective take-down strategies to help restore and repair your online reputation. At Minc Law, we know how to work with sites like Scam.com to hold online defamers and malicious parties liable, and will pursue alternate options of removal when necessary.
We want to fight for your reputation.