The Basics: What is ComplaintsBoard.com?
ComplaintsBoard.com is an online user-generated content website touting itself as the “most trusted and popular consumer complaints website,” where posters come to post reviews and comments about every industry imaginable. ComplaintsBoard not only provides a forum for reviews and ratings of neighborhood restaurants and hotels, but also uncovers scams, phishing, and and other unethical behavior.
Despite good intentions to act as a transparent community for consumers to warn others of bad businesses and services, ComplaintsBoard has evolved into an online platform for character assassination, defamation, and unsubstantiated accusations, posing a serious threat to not only your business, but your reputation as well.
Defamation Law Fact: The United States is generally considered a pro-defendant defamation jurisdiction due to its enforcement of the Constitution’s First Amendment, while the U.K. and other European countries are known to take a more plaintiff-friendly approach. Such discrepancies in enforcement has resulted in a popular legal concept known as “libel tourism,” where parties forum shop for the most favorable defamation jurisdictions.
How is ComplaintsBoard Organized?
ComplaintsBoard.com is one of the most comprehensive online review and complaint sites on the Internet, sorting complaints by category, offering consumer tips and trick articles, and allowing users to create common interest and complaint groups. They also have an active social media presence, posting regularly to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Instead of leaving it to defamed and accused parties to stumble on defamatory content by accident, ComplaintsBoard allows the instant sharing of such content, resulting in the rapid spread of lies, false content, and malicious attacks. Additionally, such instantaneous dissemination promulgates information across the Internet before anyone has a chance to verify and dispute it.
If you, or your business, has been the subject of a malicious online attack, don’t let it sit and and spread. It’s time to proactively protect your reputation, before your spouse, potential employer, or even mother-in-law becomes privy to embarrassing, false, and offensive information. The Cleveland-based defamation lawyers of Minc Law want to fight for your reputation. Reach out to Aaron, and his team of experienced attorneys, to schedule a free no-obligation initial consultation, by calling (216) 373-7706, or by scheduling an appointment online.
Defamation Law Tip: If you’re business primarily deals in food production and manufacturing, it’s highly suggested you read up on “food libel laws,” also known as “veggie libel laws.” Food libel laws exist in thirteen states, and make it easier for food manufacturers and producers to sue persons who have made disparaging comments about their products.
What is Defamation, Libel, and Slander?
First, before getting into the effects of defamation on your business’s reputation and livelihood, let’s take a look at what the tort of defamation is.
At its simplest, defamation is a false statement of fact causing damage to a person or entity’s reputation, and is typically classified into two types; libel and slander. Both concern the assertion of a false fact as truth, but take different forms.
- Libel is a false written statement, while
- Slander manifests itself in spoken form.
Ohio Defamation Law Fact: Aside from defamation, Ohio law recognizes the tort of “false light” as a valid cause of action when a non-public person’s right of privacy has been breached and made public. In comparison to defamation, false light claims exist to protect an individual’s mental and emotional state, as opposed to their reputation.
How Defamatory Reviews Can Destroy Your Business’s Integrity (and Livelihood)
Defamation of character, and of your business, not only has the potential to affect your personal life, but your ability to earn a living and keep your doors open. U.S. law classifies certain statements as so inherently defamatory, that damages are presumed, and a plaintiff need not prove them. Such statements are collectively referred to as “Defamation Per Se,” and may also be referred to as “Libel Per Se,” or “Slander Per Se,” depending on whether the statement is written (libel), or spoken (slander).
False statements will constitute defamation per se, when a defendant alleges a plaintiff possesses, or has committed one of the following acts:
- A false statement injurious to a person’s business, trade, or profession,
- A false statement alleging the plaintiff possesses a “loathsome disease,” such as leprosy, mental illness, or even a sexually transmitted disease,
- A false statement implying a plaintiff is “unchaste,” or engaged in improper sexual misconduct, or
- A false statement accusing a plaintiff of engaging in criminal activity, or committing a crime of “moral turpitude.”
Business Defamation Tip: Keep in mind that “truth” is a valid defense to a claim of defamation. If your business has actually acted unethically, illegally, or done something unsavory, a defendant will likely rely on truth as a defense. Other common defenses to defamation include; opinion, consent, and privilege.
As a business, your reputation is your most valuable asset, and as an intangible asset, it’s not something that can always be recovered or fully restored. Should defamatory reviews and ratings spread and further embed themselves into the Internet, your business could suffer disastrous consequences, including:
- Loss of loyal customers, ultimately decreasing your customer base,
- Damage to existing and future professional partnerships and connections,
- Loss and exposure of your business’s goodwill (intellectual property),
- Increased negative publicity and scrutiny,
- Severe financial loss, leading to a diminished bottom line, and causing you to shut down.
Now that you are familiar with the definition of defamation and the potential effects on your business, let’s briefly look at three recent defamation legal cases in the U.S., all of which address a different professional industry, and the various impacts on their business.
Three Recent Business Defamation Cases
1. Las Vegas Construction and Labor Abuse Accusations
2018 has already started out with some difficulties for a Las Vegas construction company, who recently commenced suit against a local labor union for comments alleging they underpaid and abused employees.
As Muller Construction, the plaintiff, relies heavily on public work and government contracts, such accusations are extremely harmful, and threaten to jeopardize all future contracts with County officials. Already, such accusations have led to County commissioners postponing a $2.5 million dollar contract.
Consequence: In addition to severely damaging present business relationships, defamation also stands to affect future partnerships and ruining any competitive market edge you may have.
2. New Hampshire Antique Shop and Swastika Display
In 2017, a Littleton, New Hampshire woman had to close her antiques shop after receiving a slew of negative reviews after she was denounced for displaying a pre-Nazi era flour sack with a swastika on it. Owner, Nicole Guida, was labeled as an “anti-semite” and “racist” for the display, with the accuser in question relying on the U.S and New Hampshire constitutions.
In January 2018, the case was dismissed after Guida’s attorney withdrew for ethical reasons, and she failed to replace him on time.
Consequence: For small businesses, defamatory online posts pose a very serious threat due to a low volume of customers, leading to a higher likelihood of having to close their doors.
3. “Estate Sales” and a Fox Reality Television Series
Things went south between a Florida-based estate sales business and Fox News after the agreement of 17 episodes for a reality television series in 2014. The plaintiff, Silars R. Piece, alleged Fox News obtained personal and private facts regarding him and his family, and used such facts to attack and discredit his reputation.
Additionally, Pierce claims the disclosure of such information was so highly offensive and objectionable, that a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities would recognize the material was not of public concern.
Consequence: Not only can the defamation of your business affect your professional life, but can be used to harm your personal and private relationships as well.
Defamation Law Fact: In 2014, a federal appellate court found that blogs, and internet bloggers, enjoy the same First Amendment protection from libel suits as journalists, and traditional news and media outlets. The court noted that bloggers should only be held liable for defamation and liable if having acted negligently.
Can I Hold Posters of Online Defamatory Content Liable?
Unlike some consumer review sites which don’t list proper contact information, or allow injured and innocent parties to dispute or remove defamatory posts, ComplaintsBoard.com has a contact page, and there have been documented past cases of content removal. However, that’s not saying much, considering ComplaintsBoard has even been sued by Ripoff Report for copyright infringement, and found to “scrape” reviews from other toxic user-generated content platforms and post it as their own.
So, can I hold ComplaintsBoard.com Liable for Defamatory Content?
Like most user-generated content platforms, ComplaintsBoard is protected from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a controversial piece of Internet legislation drafted in 1996. The CDA proves an overwhelming hurdle for defamed parties looking to hold defamers and malicious online posters liable for false online content, as it requires defamed parties to go directly after the offending poster instead of the website.
Section 230 provides protection for user-generated content platforms because they were not the actual contributors or publishers of the questionable content, just the provider of an interactive platform. Third-party posters to such platforms are the true authors, and can be held liable for defamatory content. However, keep in mind that there have been instances of user-generated content platforms making original comment or edits to reviews, opening them up to liability.
Approaching online defamation can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process, especially when identifying a malicious poster. Reach out to Cleveland, Ohio-based defamation removal attorney Aaron Minc, and his team of experienced removal lawyers to give yourself a fighting chance in permanently removing defamatory content. Aaron and his team have a nearly 100% removal success rate, and has been named five times by Super Lawyer as a “Rising Star” in the legal world.
Defamation Law Fact: If you’re looking for an effective method of minimizing the impact of defamatory online posts on your reputation, utilize “Google Alerts,” and receive notifications of specific keywords, including your name. Proactivity is key, and Google Alerts give you immediate notification anytime your name is mentioned.
Call the Lawyers of Minc, LLC Today to Schedule a Confidential Consultation
If you’ve found your name, or business, listed on ComplaintsBoard.com, and want it removed immediately, call the Reputation Lawyers of Minc, LLC right away to get started. At Minc, LLC, we leave no stone unturned, and work with you to formulate an effective take-down game-plan. Our experienced attorneys use all available removal tactics, including confronting malicious posters and defamers, and working with website administrators, content managers, and arbitration services. And, if necessary, we will seek a court-ordered removal.
Call the Reputation Lawyers at Minc, LLC today! We will fight to get content removed from ComplaintsBoard.com and other user-generated content websites.
What can you expect when working with Aaron and his team of experienced removal lawyers?
- Websites Respond to Minc, LLC Lawyers: At Minc, LLC, we know who to contact and how to contact them. We have proven success working directly with websites, ultimately leading to a swift and seamless takedown.
- You Will Be Treated with Courtesy and Respect: Uncovering defamatory online posts can be stressful, and we know it. Our goals are your goals, so take solace that we are always on your side. Additionally, your initial, no-obligation consultation is confidential and free.
- We Will Work With You: After getting started, we will stay in constant contact with you concerning the details of your case via phone, text, email, or whichever medium is most convenient for you. Staying informed is important, and we will do everything to make sure you feel comfortable.
Call today for a free confidential, no-obligation consultation
To schedule a no-cost, private initial legal consultation, call our firm at (216) 373-7706, or contact us online. At Minc, LLC, we have near 100% removal rates, all for a flat and reasonable fee. We want to fight for your reputation, so let’s get started today.