We live in a world where anyone can post anything on the Internet.
Some online reviewers don’t think their activities are illegal.
These days, the Internet is the place to turn to find anything. More and more people use the Internet to search for businesses that can provide what they are looking for. One of the first things that people read about almost any business is the online reviews. Of course, no business with any Internet presence wants a negative review. They make any business look incompetent and drive away potential clients. Businesses have a few ways to address negative reviews: they can respond to the review to mitigate the damage, bolster their online presence with positive content, or attempt to remove the negative review entirely.
Sometimes these reviews are posted by bona fide customers who had a bad experience. Other times, they are posted by competitors in disguise or others who simply want to hurt the business. The First Amendment right to free speech protects people who give their opinion, recount a bad experience, or post accurate facts about a business. However, the First Amendment does not protect malicious actors who post false statements or misrepresent themselves as a customer to simply hurt a business. Such misrepresentations may amount to Internet defamation if they include false statements of fact and harm the business’ reputation.
In Florida, businesses can sue someone who posts a defamatory review to seek damages to remedy any harm to their reputation as well as an injunction or court order requiring the poster to remove the false statements from wherever they posted it. However, far too often these bad actors post under a false name or anonymously because they do not want their falsehoods coming back to them.
Thankfully, businesses are able to obtain relief against such anonymous posters by suing John Doe to obtain a temporary injunction while they attempt to uncover the identity of the poster. Many websites and search engines, including Google, will honor temporary injunctions against the anonymous poster and will agree to remove the material.
Our law firm has successfully removed defamatory material from the Internet with this method, including instances when the poster was anonymous. If your business has been the victim of online defamation, even if it was anonymous, give us a call for a consultation to see if your bad reviews qualify for removal.