Businesses are being urged to act immediately to minimise reputational damage when their employees or directors are the target of online defamatory remarks.
The advice from hlw Keeble Hawson litigation specialist, Andrew Broadbent, follows a recent case where a Blackpool Football Club staff member secured £18k in damages for a defamatory post relating to a lawyer on an online fan’s message board.
The solicitor was untruthfully described in the Blackpool FC “Fansonline” forum as “the well-known struck off solicitor Graham Woodward”. The post was also repeated on another website, although the fan denied submitting the post.
Aligned with the growing public and judicial desire to stamp out a culture of harassment and bullying that can blight businesses, Andrew Broadbent has outlined four steps for those who find themselves at the centre of online smears.
1. Act quickly to minimise reputational risks. A long delay in challenging a defamatory remark can jeopardise a successful claim.
2. Preserve the evidence by quickly securing a copy of the offending comments. Web postings (particularly those on social media) can easily be removed and may be very difficult to locate subsequently.
3. Resist the temptation to respond to the upsetting material. A spat in a public forum is likely to draw further attention to the defamatory remark and is likely to be counterproductive.
4. Establish a consistent approach to dealing with defamatory remarks. A reputation for taking a firm but fair line can be effective in preventing further defamatory comments.
Always take expert advice from an experienced solicitor, who can guide you on the most appropriate course – then put this into action.