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Sites allow defamation so they can charge for its removal

The Ripoff Report is an internet site which allows consumers in Ohio and across the country to post anonymous complaints when they are unhappy with a product, a service or a business. Because of the site's indexing practices, those complaints often show up in Google searches for those businesses. Despite numerous lawsuits for defamation, the site's owners zealously defend their right to free speech and often refuse to remove posts unless they are paid to do so.

Section 203 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects providers and hosts from lawsuits regarding the content of any posts. This is the defense Ripoff uses when someone attempts to hold them liable in court for defamatory complaints. Sometimes the site will voluntarily remove parts of a post, but its general policy is that complaints are never taken down, even if they are false or outrageous.

Nevertheless, the company offers a service in which is remediates the negative comments by posting glowing comments of its own and delaying the publication of new negative posts for a period of time. By doing this, the person or business involved supposedly has a chance to rebuild its reputation and do damage control. The service is said to cost up to $10,000. An additional fee includes de-indexing.

While section 230 has been the defense which has allowed sites like Ripoff Report to continue winning lawsuits, more judges are acknowledging that such sites may welcome defamation so they can charge for services to remove it. Meanwhile, those in Ohio who suffer losses or damage to their reputations through false internet posts can find help with a lawyer whose practice is dedicated to online content removal. Such attorneys have resources and experience to navigate the complex world of internet defamation.

Source: bloomberg.com, "How to Make Money Rebuilding Reputations: Have Them Destroyed First", Dune Lawrence, Dec. 28, 2016

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