The move to a user-generated content approach has empowered users to spread their ideas, thoughts and opinions to audiences around the nation and globe like never before. This model has given us engaging and rewarding web destinations like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many other user-generated content sites, however there is a potential dark side to this model of web site.
User-generated content sites, like Complaints.com, are also subject to abuse by unscrupulous individuals looking to inflict shame, humiliation, and embarrassment on others. Since Complaints.com also caters to business complaints, the site can also be misused by a struggling business owner to defame his or her competition in a misguided attempt to gain a competitive advantage. While complaints.com claims to put “Consumers in Control”, but some consumers can hijack and abuse this platform in an attempt to achieve their own goals.
Potential Problems With Complaints.com and Internet Defamation
Complaints.com sets forth a posting code of conduct that states:
- COMPLAINTS SHOULD DESCRIBE AN ACTUAL, FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE OF A CONSUMER.
- COMPLAINTS SHOULD BE WRITTEN BY THE CONSUMER THAT HAD THE EXPERIENCE.
- COMPLAINTS SHOULD BE SUITABLE FOR A GENERAL FAMILY AUDIENCE.
- COMPLAINTS SHOULD BE CONSTRUCTIVE IN NATURE, SEEKING A POSITIVE RESULT OR COMMUNICATION.
- COMPLAINTS SHOULD INDICATE A DESIRED OUTCOME.
Unfortunately, it appears that many of the site’s users do not adhere to these guidelines. Some posts take the approach of impersonating the owner of the targeted business to seemingly make self-inflicted false and defamatory postings. One post where the business owner is impersonated by a user of the site describes the business owner as “emotionally unstable”, “a foul smelling [farm animal]”, and a “convicted felon” and says that the company’s job is to “screw [the customer] over.” In a post like this, there is questionable accuracy and the use of terms which are defamatory and carrying a stigma. Furthermore, the complaint is vile, not constructive, and seeks no resolution. It is merely posted to attack, embarrass and humiliate the business and the business owner.
As a website posting user-generated content, Complaints.com receives broad protections against legal liability from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. However, while the site itself may receive protections from legal liability, the individual posters who make defamatory and false reports online do not receive protections and are subject to liability for the damages they may cause. Thus, the option to take legal action against the individual poster remains in many cases of defamation. Additionally, Complaints.com states in its TOS that:
Complaints.com does not knowingly allow incorrect or factually incorrect information to remain posted, as determined only by a U.S. court decision or opinion. If Complaints.com is instructed to remove and delete a posted message by a U.S. court, then the message will be removed and deleted.
Thus, the site will voluntarily comply with court orders to remove false and defamatory postings.
Concerns with Complaints.com User Registration Procedure
Complaints.com does require users to register an account before they post a complaint. However, the site does not appear to make use of any verified or other reasonably verifiable credentials. The site does require the user to provide an e-mail address, however disposable web-based email accounts are within reach of even the least sophisticated user of the internet. However, there is the possibility that the site does log IP addressed. It may be possible to unmask the identity of your abuser to pursue legal action through this or other means.
Rely on Our Internet Defamation Experience
While Complaints.com has a number of legitimate uses, the site is also prone to abuse. A consumer who is seeking to extort a business through negative reviews may engage in a campaign using multiple false identities. Someone who you had a personal or professional disagreement may be unable to move on and seek revenge through false postings. If you are facing Internet defamation that is hurting your personal reputation or your company’s ability to compete, contact The Internet Defamation Lawyers of Minc LLC. We may be able to guarantee the removal of the post from the website in question or you will get your money back.To schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation call (216) 373-7706 or schedule a meeting online.