- The Brass Tacks: What is ComplaintsBureau.com?
- Problems Caused by User-Generated Content Sites
- So, who can I hold liable for false posts and reviews on ComplaintsBureau.com?
- Three Core Issues with ComplaintsBureau.com’s Registration and Removal Policies
- Facing Online Libel & Defamation? Work with an Experienced Defamation Attorney Today!
The Brass Tacks: What is ComplaintsBureau.com?
A Short History
Since the emergence of the Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s, a bevy of Internet sites popped up, promising Internet users a platform to share their thoughts, ideas, experiences, and more. While the first wave of the Web 2.0 brought us user-generated content websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, it also came with a darker side; malicious “consumer advocacy” and reporting sites.
Today, there are user-generated content platforms and websites on every topic imaginable, ranging from link-sharing and content aggregation, to online bodybuilding forums, to product, service, and business review sites, including ComplaintsBureau.com.
Defamation Law Tip: Defamation law is slowly evolving to catch up to the ever-changing Internet. Most recently, the term “Twibel” has begun popping up in defamation courts. Twibel is the combination of “Twitter” and “libel,” and occurs when one party is defamed by another on Twitter.
What is Complaints Bureau?
Boasting the slogan, “Made by the consumer, for the consumer,” ComplaintsBureau.com is an online consumer advocacy website where malicious consumers and posters review, comment, and rant about businesses, professionals, and services.
While it’s important to give every consumer a voice, ComplaintsBureau posts oftentimes have nothing to do with consumer or products at all, and has been known to contain pornographic photos and revenge porn, unwarranted STD accusations, and pedophilia charges. And, for the posts that actually address business and professional complaints, ComplaintsBureau omits any channels of legitimacy, allowing posters to libel and attack anyone without supporting evidence.
While most user-generated content sites are founded with legitimate purposes and goals in mind, and aren’t abused by the majority of users, there’s always malicious individuals looking to exploit the system to push their own agendas by tearing others down. Such individuals usually exploit lax registration and verification procedures by posting false, inaccurate, and defamatory information about businesses, services, and individuals.
Some examples of other popular consumer advocacy and complaints boards include:
Defamation Removal Law Fact: Although cyber defamation is not a specific criminal defense, tort, or misdemeanor, it is defined as either slander or defamation conducted via digital media and on the Internet. When dealing with cyber defamation, there are several potential responses, including: (1) ignoring the statement, (2) requesting the website remove the statement, (3) responding to the statement, or (4) contacting an experienced defamation attorney.
Oftentimes, user-reporting and consumer advocacy sites turn into nothing more than a battleground of revenge and unwarranted attacks, and can (in extreme cases) lead to permanent damage, such as experiencing a significantly decreased bottom line or going out of business.
Just know that malicious online abuse doesn’t have to continue forever. If you or your business are the victim of malicious and defamatory attacks on ComplaintsBureau.com or similar sites, put a stop to it today, by contacting the Internet defamation removal attorneys of Minc Law. At Minc Law, we have a nearly 100% removal rate, and all for a flat, reasonable fee. To schedule a free, initial no-obligation consultation, call us at (216) 373-7706, or schedule a meeting online today.
Don’t let your next employer, best friend, or even grandmother stumble upon malicious attacks made against you online, and reach out now!
We want to protect your reputation.
Defamation Law Fact: In 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled an Ohio trial court may assert jurisdiction a nonresident defendant in an online defamation case. The court found (1) Ohio’s long-arm jurisdiction statute conferred jurisdiction over the defendant and (2) exercising that jurisdiction to require the defendant answer for his malicious Internet postings does not violate his constitutional right to due process.
Problems Caused by User-Generated Content Sites
ComplaintsBureau, and other user-generated content platforms (UGC), are often a theoretical godsend, but practical nightmare, due to their protection under landmark piece of Internet legislation, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA).
Section 230 of the CDA minimizes liability and provides near-blanket immunity for providers of user-generated content. It 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.”
When analyzing website immunity under the CDA, courts have generally applied a straight-forward three-prong test, which requires:
- The defendant must be a “provider or user” of an “interactive computer service,”
- The plaintiff assert the defendant was the actual “publisher or speaker” of the harmful and offensive content at issue, and
- The information must be provided by a third-party, also known as another information content provider.
Simply put, user-generated content platforms act as mere facilitators and providers of the infrastructure, and have no hand in creating the actual content posted in their forums and bulletin boards. UGC websites enjoy the same immunity that telephone and cable providers enjoy. Just because telephone and cable providers supply the tools for users to commit malicious acts, doesn’t mean they are the malicious actors themselves. Such disconnect does promote free speech and creative contribution, but also opens the doors up to extreme cyberbullying and online defamation.
To read up on the controversy surrounding the Communications Decency Act of 1996, check out this piece in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, which examines it legacy and how lawmakers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and educations view it.
Defamation Law Fact: Defamation per se is the legal principle classifying certain defamatory statements as so inherently harmful, that the plaintiff need not prove actual damages, a common required element for a successful defamation claim. Generally, defamation per se includes four types of statements: (1) statements imputing unchastity and sexually promiscuous behavior on a person, (2) statements alleging the plaintiff engaged in criminal activity, or a crime of moral turpitude, (3) statements alleging a person possesses a loathsome disease, most commonly an STD or leprosy, and (4) statements accusing a party of engaging in behavior unbefitting of his/her trade, profession, or business.
So, who can I hold liable for false posts and reviews on ComplaintsBureau.com?
While it is near futile going after a user-generated content website (bar a few exceptions), actual posters of defamatory and malicious online attacks don’t enjoy such immunity from liability. Therefore, if you’ve been defamed, you can hold individual posters liable for false and baseless attacks, you just have to locate them first.
To read up more on the process of uncovering an anonymous poster, check out our comprehensive post on identifying and removing false online business reviews.
Although locating the poster may seem like an arduous and complicated process, Aaron Minc and his team of experienced defamation removal lawyers know who to contact in order to locate malicious online defamers.
The lawyers of Minc Law will work websites and administrators to uncover anonymous users IP addresses and identifying information to hold them accountable for their actions. Additionally, Aaron and his team will explore alternative methods to remove malicious false content, including filing a DMCA takedown, or obtaining a valid court order to serve on Google and other search engines.
Defamation Tip: Defamation of character is a “catch-all” phrase for any false statement damaging a person’s reputation. It can generally be classified into two categories, libel – written defamation, and slander – spoken defamation. The party making the malicious false statement may be referred to as a defamer, libeler, slanderer, or famacide.
Three Core Issues with ComplaintsBureau.com’s Registration and Removal Policies
Sites like ComplaintsBureau.com, “by the consumer, for the consumer,” boast significant rhetorical appeal, but ultimately called into question due to a number of troubling and inadequate practices, including:
- Humiliation: ComplaintsBureau.com’s legalese and fine print create a hostile posting environment, intimidating and confusing injured parties. Rather than the promotion of accuracy, truthfulness, and trustworthiness, Complaints Bureau has a storied history of openly mocking and humiliating concerned parties. On their site, they have a section titled “Legal Threats,” where they name all parties who have threatened legal action against them (mind you for defamatory and false postings), and include their various correspondences. Such parties include lawyers, police officers, and online abuse victims. One woman who they openly mocked sent them an email that read, “I want the page with my name removed immediately. The girl who put this is facing legal action with several other sites. I have contacted my attorney and he will make sure this site is shut down permanently. You need to verify information before disclosing anything.” To Complaints Bureau, consumers don’t actually matter and aren’t taken seriously. Instead, they are publicly ridiculed and attacked.
- Hardline removal policy: Complaints Bureau takes a hardline approach to removing comments and reports, which is surprisingly for a site made for the purpose of ensuring business transparency and consumer advocacy. What good is a consumer advocacy website if nearly every comment and post is kept up, and poorly vetted? Complaints Bureau is completely contradictory to the message it preaches, and their posting policy reads: “Your submission of any/all data posted to ComplaintsBureau.com will become the permanent property of this site. Even in the case that a complaint is true or false, that is and will always be the policy…Information posted on ComplaintsBureau.com will NEVER be removed. By posting information on ComplaintsBureau.com, you understand that the material you post will become part of ComplaintsBureau.com’s permanent record and will NOT be removed, even at your request.” Complaints Bureau’s TOS allows for false content to stay online, ultimately damaging a future consumer’s experience and subjecting them to false information. Complaints Bureau also takes the position that all legal action is unjustified and “guarantee[s]…that you will have to pay not only your own legal costs but also the total costs that you have caused Complaints Bureau to suffer.”
- Lack of verification procedures: Malicious posters recognize that a hardline removal policy allows them to get away with posting unverifiable and malicious content. After all, why wouldn’t an aggrieved consumer or random Internet troll post false and defamatory information if they know they will never be caught or reprimanded? ComplaintsBureau.com’s verification procedures extend not only to content, but to the actual users. Users are required to produce an email address and name, something that can be easily circumvented with a throwaway email or fictitious name. Additionally, Complaints Bureau doesn’t require users to produce supporting evidence of their claims, such as an accompanying receipt, screenshot, or other evidence. Users may only respond to the post by contacting Complaints Bureau or by replying to a comment in the post. Complaints Bureau’s mission of transparency clearly failed to take into account malicious users and online defamation.
Defamation Law Fact: Because of the United State’s enforcement of the First Amendment, it is usually considered a far more defendant-friendly defamation jurisdiction than European or other Commonwealth countries. Due to each state having their own definitions of libel and slander, it can be difficult to have a comprehensive and clear discussion of defamation principles and elements.
To combat online defamation and cyberbullying, some professions take protective measures, such as buying defamation insurance. To read up on what defamation insurance is and when you need it, check out our detailed article chronicling everything you need to know about defamation insurance.
Facing Online Libel & Defamation? Work with an Experienced Defamation Attorney Today!
When confronting online libel, defamation, and cyberbullying, time is of the essence. The longer malicious attacks to your reputation remain online, the more severe the consequences. If you’ve found your name or business posted on ComplaintsBureau.com, reach out to the reputation repair lawyers of Minc Law. At Minc Law:
- We leave no stone unturned,
- Will fight to protection your reputation and remove false content, and
- Know how to secure a swift and permanent content takedown.
Ohio Super Lawyer, Aaron Minc, and his team of highly experienced defamation removal lawyers know who to work with, and how to work with them. At Minc Law, we will work with content managers, site administrators, and third-party arbitrators to secure a seamless removal and hold defamers liable.
Let us fight for your reputation.
Defamation Tip: Social media websites have changed the online defamation arena completely, becoming the go-to medium for everyone to discuss music, politics, news, fashion, gossip, travel and more. Because of social media’s rapid rise as a tool for online defamation, courts have struggled with the idea of applying traditional defamation standards and rules in an online context, so it’s highly recommended to reach out to an experienced defamation removal attorney to help you understand your rights.