Libel cases originating from internet content are popping up more and more often in the United States’ court system, both on the federal and state levels. The rapid increase in the number of internet libel complaints has placed existing defamation statutes and case law under intense scrutiny, with critics claiming that current laws and precedents cannot adequately be enforced to prevent the dissemination of libelous material via anonymous blogs, websites, and related online media platforms.
Cases of internet defamation, critics say, are seldom understood or taken seriously by judges or juries who may not be technologically proficient or well versed in the intricacies of internet terminology. Many courts still view internet libel cases through the same lens through which they have viewed libel cases involving traditional media outlets, such as newspapers and television.
However, the internet is a different beast, and the evolution of the legal structure for handling online defamation claims is still in its infancy, with the rules of the road being defined and changed with each new law or court case.
Today, libel and defamation standards vary greatly from state to state, with each having unique laws on the books through which they handle civil complaints of defamation perpetrated on the internet. (Just to clarify – defamation is a verifiable false statement of fact which is known to be false when published or spoken. Libel and slander are two forms of defamation; libel is written defamation and slander is defamation that is spoken. In the context of internet defamation, we are almost always referring to libel, for obvious reasons.) The statutes of limitations for defamation cases is determined by the individual states and oftentimes – even if the statute of limitations has not expired – ISPs and website operators do not archive information which might have been valuable as evidence in court. Thus, many victims of online reputation attacks cannot seek compensation or damages through the court system, leaving their online reputation in tatters and their future endeavors in serious jeopardy.
But all is not lost for these victims. Even if the court system is not prepared or able to deliver justice to the targets of online attacks, there are ways to begin to restore and rebuild one’s internet reputation. A growing number of businesses, such as Rexxfield, now offer services and strategies for fighting against ongoing libelous campaigns and for defending against future attempts to sully a person’s or business’ reputation with false or misleading information. Representing their clients, these companies employ strategies to bury damaging search results from the first pages of relevant searches.
By utilizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques, clients gain a quick and effective way to remedy a situation involving libelous content spread over many websites or blogs. Also, many times firms will directly contact either the website owner or the ISP of the site, requesting the removal of the illegal and untrue content. Hopefully they do so voluntarily, avoiding the need for legal action which can be very costly in terms of both time and money.
Until the states and the courts can fully grasp the damaging nature of libel on the internet, more and more victims will seek assistance and counsel from third party firms hired to represent their interests and protect their online reputations.