In Australia: Mind Your Ps and Qs | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | December 29th, 2010

PC World is always posting interesting pieces for those of us in the reputation management services industry. The latest contribution to that tradition is an article attempting to answer a question about online defamation on social networking sites.


In Australia, if you have a social networking account such as Facebook or Twitter, or if you use Internet message boards or forums, you are bound by this country’s laws when you post material or express yourself. This issue has become readily apparent with the recent ‘#twitdef’ case, which saw an Australian journalist threatened with a defamation lawsuit over her posts on Twitter.


The most important thing to remember, by far, is that your countries particular laws and what bind you. There is no international law concerning how online defamation is to be handled or prosecuted. The article further states that posting videos of illegal activity on social networks can also get you into trouble.


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Defending Against Anonymity | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | December 17th, 2010

This is probably one of the most interesting online defamation suits I have seen in recent weeks–a plastic surgeon suing former patients of his. The three defendents in the suit are all women and former patients of the good doctor’s. He claims that they left anonymous comments on a review site in which they unfairly maligned him or his work.


He has launched a lawsuit again Elaina Bender, Lisa Cuevas, and another unnamed woman for $100,000 each for allegedly calling him ‘dangerous,’ ‘ruthless’ and a ‘liar’ in their postings.


The three women wrote their comments anonymously on Yelp and Citysearch, two online review websites, but their identities were revealed when Dr Pensler’s lawyers subpoenaed the companies for the information.


I would not guess as to whether Dr. Pensler will win or lose his lawsuit, but I certainly sympathize with his situation. The anonymous postings have undoubtedly caused him to lose many clients that he might otherwise have gotten.



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Bloggers vs. Mayor | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | November 25th, 2010

Phyllis Morris is the former Mayor of Aurora, she was ousted by a political newcomer, Geoff Dawe, in an election just last month. She lost by less than 4,000 votes–and she thinks the loss is attributable to three bloggers. Morris has named several residents, bloggers and commenters, in a lawsuit for online defamation–she is seeking $6 million in damages. The courts in Canada will now get to struggle with the question of whether this is free speech, defamatory speech, etc.


The case pits the rights of bloggers to freely opine against the rights of politicians to defend their reputations against online attacks, and raises the question of what constitutes fair comment in the increasingly unwieldy Internet realm, where a solitary comment may be read by millions of people worldwide.

Even the experts are unclear on where the line is between defamatory comments and free speech against political opponents. Apparently the former Mayor think that the online turmoil these bloggers and their comments caused was the sole reason for her electoral loss.


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Officer Bubbles or Officer Josephs? | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | October 19th, 2010

One does not usually think of bubbles as being in any way intrusive or assaulting, but Toronto Police Constable Adam Josephs found them to be sufficient cause to arrest a young protester back during the G20 Summit. He came to be dubbed “Officer Bubbles”, a moniker which he apparently does not appreciate very much–he filed an online defamation suit against YouTube based upon a cartoon that was posted in response to this video.


But the lawsuit was not filed in response to the original video, but rather to a cartoon that was later uploaded in which a policeman wearing a name badge “A. Josephs” is shown arresting Santa Claus and U.S. President Barack Obama among others, and punching a photographer in the face.


The anonymity guaranteed to online commenters can be abused, and this is proof of that, regardless of what one thinks about the particular police officer or cartoon involved. Despite people’s ignorance on the issue, defamation laws do indeed apply to the digital world. While the officer is unlikely to win his lawsuit, this nonetheless proves how online defamation can effect a person’s world and reputation.


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Changing the Dynamic for Online Defamation | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | October 1st, 2010

An appellate court has ruled on an online defamation suit in New Jersey and, in an odd twist, has basically stated that there need be no proof of damages for the suit to proceed. Basically, the court ruled in the case that damages can be proven later in the online defamation suit–a step that most experts say does not follow the pattern of law in other cases.


The case is W.J.A. v. D.A. (A-0762-09), and it concerns an uncle, W.J.A., who claims to have been wrongly accused of molesting his nephew, D.A., in online postings. W.J.A. claims to have been defamed and is seeking damages–but he has not yet been able to prove what damages he suffered. Despite that, the judge has allowed the case to move on.


This could have a major bearing on google reputation management, as it could make litigation much easier than the traditional way of fixing these problems, online reputation management.


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A New Judicial Narrative On Anonymous Online Defamation | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | August 12th, 2010

The Pitssburg Post Gazette has some interesting news this morning about a lawsuit many online reputation management professionals have been following very closely.


A judge in Pittsburg decided that anonymous online commenters do not have the right to remain so. His ruling was viewed as a strike against anonymous online defamation by his supporters and as a blow against free speech to his opponents.

Anonymous bloggers beware. You may not be as anonymous as you think.


Forward Township Supervisor Thomas DeRosa has won a court victory in the action that he filed in November to uncover the identities of people who posted comments on an online bulletin board that he said defamed him.


On Wednesday, the ACLU, which had intervened in the case, turned over the Internet Protocol addresses of six individuals who made specific posts that Mr. DeRosa mentioned in his court filings.


That action follows an announcement Tuesday night by West Mifflin Area school director Albert Graham, who vowed to take legal action to obtain the names of individuals who he said had posted threats against his life on the West Mifflin page of the discussion board Topix.com.


Web service providers have protection from comments made by third-party posters under a federal 1996 telecommunications law. But some courts require them to release the names of posters’ identities if a strong enough case is made for defamation.


This is certainly not the first case that has been decided this way–so it is not revolutionary, but is indicative of an overall narrative of judicial rulings that have moved in this direction.


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Ignore, Respond, or Sue? | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | July 28th, 2010

Is it smarter for a company to sue anonymous online critics, ignore them, or confront the problem head on by replying to the criticism? This is debate that has raged in online reputation management, online defamation, and business circles for years. There is no definitive answer. This article gives a pretty good view on the question, though.


When an anonymous critic attacks a company’s reputation online, the initial reaction is often to launch an expensive legal offensive to quiet the damaging criticism. However, before jumping headfirst into a costly and potentially risky litigation strategy, companies should consider whether they are using the court system to vindicate their protected legal rights or whether they are turning to litigation in an attempt to stifle unfair, albeit protected, criticism.


A lesson can be learned from a recent case involving USA Technologies, a NASDAQ-listed company that supplies products for devices such as vending machines and photocopiers. The company is in a tough spot, with its stock price having plunged more than 99% during the past decade. Despite this poor performance, the board of directors has continued to compensate company management handsomely.


As a result, the blogosphere has not been kind to USAT. One commentator, writing under the pseudonym “Stokklerk” on the Yahoo! Finance message board, accused USAT’s CEO of having a “worldview” where “humanity exist[ed] to be fleeced,” and stated that USAT had committed “legalized highway robbery” and was operating its business as a “soft Ponzi” scheme. Stokklerk further posted that “two top people at USAT” had “skimmed over $30M” from USAT by promoting a “story to lure investors and then” have the management approve “massive pay packages” that bore no correlation to company performance.


The entire article is worth reading. It gives a very good perspective on the issue without being too biased. This problem is neither easily explained nor solved. It is good to see someone looking into it.


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Landmark Online Defamation Case Starts in Singapore | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | July 22nd, 2010

Online defamation isn’t just a problem here in the UK and it can adversely affect individuals and companies all around the globe. The potential problem is highlighted by a growing number of cases with one of the latest proving to be quite a landmark case for a number of reasons.


First, it involves a blog not only showing that individually owned sites can be as liable as company run ones but the fact that it was others that posted the defamatory comments but still the blog owner that’s being sued shows one of the potential problems with online defamation rulings.


Defamation lawsuits involving newspapers and magazines are usually more straightforward. A paper print publication must allow a comment to be published which makes them liable for claims. However, the case between the Global Indian Foundation and a Mr A K Narayanan is quite different.


Narayanan set up and manages the blog but it was other members that posted allegedly defamatory comments about GIF run school Global Indian International School. Mr Narayanan also contests that the comments cannot be considered defamatory because they are true. The court case is being heard this week.


Posting defamatory comments can have serious implications on both the defamed and the defamer. While your own blog may seem like a safe haven where you can say what you like about anything you like, those companies and individuals looking to protect their online reputation may still take offence at anything that they deem to be untrue and offensive.


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Counterproductive Lawsuits | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | July 7th, 2010

Dr. Kimberly Henry is a cosmetic surgeon who recently filed a lawsuit to stop online reviewers from bad-mouthing her online. She sought injunctions against a number of reviewers, 12 at last count, from commenting at Yelp.com and DoctorScorecard.com. She sought over $2 million in damages, total.


The reality of the lawsuit is that it will get Dr. Henry lots of bad press on the Internet. More online libel is all that will result because angry bloggers, commenters, and forum lurkers will criticize her, fairly and unfairly.


The solution Dr. Kimberly Henry overlooked, or simply did not know about, was reputation management. Firms in the reputation management industry could have helped her to silently and effectively minimize the importance of the few negative links in Dr. Henry’s search results. Instead, her search results will be littered with negative mentions of this very lawsuit. Quite counterproductive indeed.


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Defamation Lawsuit Tops Jury Awards in California | Online Defamation Law Suits

Posted by admin | June 28th, 2010

The 2009 list of top verdict awards in California courts is out, published by The Recorder–which is a California legal newsletter. At the top of the list sits a defamation lawsuit. This is not entirely uncommon, we have seen many times that defamation lawsuits can reap large rewards–but they are typically not very high profile.


The jury in the case awarded $370 million to five former employees of Guess? Inc., who were accused of embezzlement and found to be innocent. The Recorder had a full list of the top ten rewards given in California in 2009, as well as a side-by-side comparison chart of the same statistics in New York.


Also of interest is that the defendant in the suit, Georges Marciano, the founder of Guess? Inc., is also attempting to run for Governor of California as an Independent this year.


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