Webcide.com Negative Public Relations

If you go to the “Removing Content From Google” page, you can follow the form to find out how to remove several different types of search results.  Google Legal Removal Requests including defamatory search results, you would select Web Search à I have a legal issue that is not mentioned above à I have located defamatory content in Google’s search results.  From there, Google explains that “If you have obtained a court order which declares that the content of a web page indexed by Google is unlawful, please follow the instructions on the court order form.”

 

Thus, this leads to the next question I usually receive – How do I get a Court Order?

Unfortunately, it is a common misconception that you can just automatically get a Court Order.  In reality, to obtain a Court Order, you will first need to file a defamation lawsuit against the poster.  If the identity of the poster is anonymous, you will need to file what is called a “John Doe” Lawsuit and will have to utilize court procedures to subpoena the website for the poster’s IP address.  Once you have the poster’s IP address, you subpoena the Internet Service Provider for the identity associated with IP address, who you will then formally name in the lawsuit.  You proceed through the defamation lawsuit, either through settlement or trial, and ideally come out with a Court Order indicating that the post is defamatory and must be removed.  Then, you can submit the Court Order to Google to remove the post from the search results.

 

Defamation is the act of knowingly spreading false information with the intent of the reputation of another person or business.  Defamation law has been around for thousands of years. In fact, United States defamation law pre-dates the American Revolution.  In 1734, for instance, an influential case established precedent that "The Truth" is an absolute defense against charges of libel.  Online Defamation, then, occurs when someone knowingly spreads false information with the intent of damaging the reputation of another person or business entity on the internet. This can take many forms online, including but not limited to public forum comments, consumer complaints, false online reviews, social posts and videos. 

How does defamation differ from libel and slander?  Defamation is an area of law that allows you to seek (civil or criminal) legal recourse against anyone that inflicts damage upon your reputation or your livelihood.

 

Libel is a written or published defamatory statement, while slander is defamation that is spoken by the defendant.  Thus if you've been defamed in a written blog post, news article, review or forum thread, you're dealing with libel. If, on the other hand, spoken defamation surfaces online via a YouTube video, podcast or other recorded verbal communication, the defamatory content is slanderous.

 

 

Civil vs Criminal Defamation

With the exception of Arizona, Missouri, and Tennessee, all U.S. states recognize that certain categories of false statements are innately hurtful in a way that requires that they are treated as defamation per se.

 

 

Defamation per se

When is a statement considered defamatory per se?

A statement that falsely imputes to the plaintiff one or more of the following things is considered to be defamatory per se:

  • Allegations or imputations "injurious to another in their trade, business, or profession".

  • Allegations or imputations "of loathsome disease" (historical examples include leprosy, sexually transmitted disease, and mental illness).

  • Allegations or imputations of "unchastity" (usually only in unmarried people and sometimes only in women).

  • Allegations or imputations of criminal activity (sometimes only crimes of moral turpitude.

 

 

 

State Criminal Defamation Laws

While no criminal laws against defamation exist on a federal level, state laws making defamation a criminal offense no exist in seventeen U.S. states and two territories.

States with Criminal Laws Against Defamation (as of 2005)

  • Colorado (Colorado Revised Statutes, § 18-13-105)

  • Florida (Florida Statutes, § 836.01-836.11)

  • Idaho (Idaho Code, § 18-4801-18-4809)

  • Kansas (Kansas Statute Annotated, §21-6103(a)(1))

  • Louisiana (Louisiana R.S., 14:47)

  • Michigan (Michigan Compiled Laws, § 750.370)

  • Minnesota (Minnesota Statutes. § 609.765)

  • Mississippi (Mississippi Code Annotated, §97-3-55)

  • Montana (Montana Code Annotated, § 13-35-234)

  • New Hampshire (New Hampshire Revised Statute Annotated, § 644:11)

  • New Mexico (New Mexico Statute Annotated, §30-11-1)

  • North Carolina (North Carolina General Statutes, § 14-47)

  • North Dakota (North Dakota Century Code, § 12.1-15-01)

  • Oklahoma (Oklahoma Statutes, tit. 21 §§ 771-781)

  • Utah (Utah Code Annotated, § 76-9-404)

  • Virginia (Virginia Code Annotated, § 18.2-417)

  • Washington (Washington Revised Code, 9.58.010 [Repealed in 2009])

  • Wisconsin (Wisconsin Statutes, § 942.01)

  • Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Laws, tit. 33, §§ 4101-4104), which was declared unconstitutional in 2003 by a Federal Court.

  • Virgin Islands (Virgin Islands Code, Title 14, § 1172)

State penalties for criminal defamation vary widely from state to state and depend on the nature and severity of the defamatory web content.  Criminal defamation penalty can range from a written letter to probation, to mandatory jail time.  From 1965 to 2004, 16 criminal defamation cases ended in conviction.  Out of these 16 criminal defamation convictions, 9 resulted in jail sentences.