Defamation was always a problem for individuals or business owners. People who held a grudge against them or didn’t agree with them for some reason could spread lies and untrue accusations. These could move through the local community, through the grapevine, and harm that person’s reputation forever.
But recent decades have seen the rise of the internet and especially social media. Both of these have made defamation far worse on a few different levels. It’s important to understand how this works and what you can do about it if it’s happened to you.
Reaching a wide audience
The first way that social media has made defamation worse is that the audience that gets to be influenced by that defamation is much greater. One disgruntled customer at your restaurant may have just grumbled and disappeared, never to be seen again in previous years. Now they can post a review online or make comments on your social media portfolio that are going to be seen by hundreds, thousands or even potentially millions of people. This can severely harm your business.
To make it worse, many of these people aren’t going to continue to follow the story. For instance, you may delete the social media posts or even reply, proving that what the person is saying isn’t true. But people are simply going to read those initial comments, make a judgment, and never come back to find out what really happened. The damage to your reputation can be permanent and it’s very hard to push back against that.
The level of disconnect
Social media has also created a level of disconnect between individual users that makes them feel relatively anonymous. This is true even when they aren’t anonymous and they’re using a profile that has their real name. They still feel like the distance means they can say things they would never say in person or act in a way that they wouldn’t in real life.
This could push people who are feeling like lashing out to make up untruths or to directly lie about the business. They assume they will never have to see you again, personally, so they’re willing to do and say things that they never would have otherwise.
Considering your options
If you have been victimized by defamation, you can see how problematic it is. This is why it’s so important to understand your legal options.