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Why should you use an attorney to handle negative online content?

A quick google search for “online reputation management” yields many different online companies and services promising to scrub negative online content about you or your business. So, why is it more effective to hire a lawyer to fix the problem?

Suppressing web traffic vs total removal

Various software and web promotion methods work to suppress the negative content from internet search engines, which prevents it from being one of the top results. However, the harmful information remains online. In contrast, an attorney has many more tools at his or her disposal to eliminate the content permanently.

Anonymous Posts: discovering the author

Although the right to anonymous speech is protected by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Schenck v. United States, there are restrictions. An online statement that is harmful and false is not protected by law. If you have been injured by a false statement, an attorney can subpoena the service provider or web hosting service, and if the proper criteria is met the court will require that they turn over any available information about the poster’s identity.

Removal of content from the web

An attorney can obtain an injunction against the service provider to remove the material. This can be done prior to trial. Cease and desist letters are another option once the author’s identity is known, explaining what content is false and harmful followed by a demand that the content be removed or face a lawsuit.

If you or your business is faced with negative posts online, you should first evaluate whether or not there is any truth behind it, then assess the level of harm that has or will result. Once that information is collected, contact your attorney to discuss your options. The best course of action is to have it removed permanently, rather than hiring a company without the power under the law, who will simply push the information deeper into the web, awaiting discovery by online sleuths.

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