The internet has significantly changed the way consumers and businesses interact. Consumers can communicate directly with the companies that manufacture, distribute, and sell goods, and businesses can bypass the traditional advertising process and provide information directly to the public. Consumers can communicate with one another about companies and their products or services through websites like Yelp, on which consumers write reviews of businesses and read other consumers’ reviews. These websites have policies and procedures regarding false or disparaging information, but defamatory information may still become public. In disputes with consumers, businesses may look to statements the consumers have made online, and they may assert a claim or counterclaim for defamation. When this happens, the consumer needs the assistance of a Chicago internet defamation lawyer who knows that latest developments in this developing area of law.Defamation
A false and damaging statement made to a third party is generally defined as “defamation.” State law allows a person or business to bring a civil lawsuit against a person who has made an allegedly defamatory statement. The claimant must prove that the statement was false, and that the defendant knew or should have known that it was false. A defamation claim also requires proof that actual, measurable damages were the direct and foreseeable result of the defamatory statement.
Businesses involved in a consumer dispute may bring a counterclaim for defamation in order to complicate the consumers’ case, causing them to expend limited resources defending themselves rather than pursuing their own claims. Defamation claims can be very difficult to prove, and they occasionally backfire on the claimant. The statement must be false to meet the legal definition of defamation, giving a defendant an incentive to prove the statement’s truth. This could result in further negative publicity for the claimant.Internet Defamation
Before the internet, most defamation claims required a high level of proof to establish that an allegedly defamatory statement was made public. These days, a statement posted to a blog or social media site could travel around the world, reaching thousands of people in minutes. While this might make proof of “publication” easier for a business alleging defamation, the internet also presents unique challenges that could work to a consumer’s advantage.Publicity
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow information to “go viral” quite rapidly, such as when large numbers of people re-post someone else’s statements. A company that does not act quickly may find that a defamation claim against the original poster would be ineffective, or that claims against the thousands who re-posted the statement would be impossible.Anonymity
People can use social media services, post reviews of businesses, or participate in online discussions using a pseudonym. Some services allow users to maintain complete anonymity. This anonymity cannot protect a user from legal consequences indefinitely, nor should it be a shield for illegal or fraudulent activity. In the case of a defamation counterclaim brought as a litigation tactic, however, a company may have difficulty breaking through the internet’s culture of anonymity.
At Nationwide Consumer Rights, our Chicago internet defamation attorneys have decades of experience representing plaintiffs in claims for consumer fraud and violations of various consumer protection statutes. We can help you protect your legal rights in the face of a much larger opponent, and defend you against counterclaims such as defamation. Contact us today online or at 630-333-0000 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an internet defamation lawyer in the Chicago area.