Many people are surprised to learn that they could be sued for their negative online reviews of various products, services and companies. One constant aspect of internet-based interactions is the feeling of anonymity the internet provides.
However, libel lawsuits from companies against people leaving negative online reviews is becoming more prominent in recent years. Further, courts seem to be leaning more towards unmasking internet reviewers for the purposes of libel litigation.
How can you protect yourself against a libel suit for your online reviews?
There are three basic things you can do to protect yourself:
- Be honest: One of the most important defenses against a libel suit is truth. If what you said was true and honest, it will be much more likely to stand up in court than fabricated information. Part of a truly honest approach to online reviews involves accuracy and specificity. Avoid vague conclusions and stick to the specific facts of what you experienced.
- Keep evidence: If you do end up on court defending against a libel suit, few tools will be more powerful in your defense than actual physical evidence. If you were overcharged, for example, a copy of your original contract with a price quote and the actual receipt would be high-quality evidence of the overcharging. If a roofer left a hole in your roof, a photograph of the roof, taken immediately after the work was done, would be strong evidence in your favor.
- Only speak of first-hand experiences: One thing most people don’t realize is that an online review should be limited to your own experience. You should avoid what is called “hearsay,” which involves factual details of which you have no personal experience. Saying that your neighbor had a bad experience would be hard to defend against a libel suit.
These are just three examples of how you can shield yourself against a libel suit. In most cases, staying honest and detailed about your own experiences should keep you out of court in the first place. But if you do get brought in as a defendant in a libel suit, you need to defend yourself aggressively, as a claim like this could be costly.