Ripped Off by Ripoff Report: Dealing with Online Defamation

June 28, 2015

8:00 am

Why do small business owners sometimes recoil at the mention of Ripoff Report? Nine times out of ten, entrepreneurs’ animosity is rooted in the site’s “no removal” policy.

To be clear: Ripoff Report is not opposed to redacting certain information in specific situations. However, it’s important for consumers to understand that RipoffReport enjoys defamation immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which we’ll get to below.

Nonetheless, does the company’s courtroom success mean it’s impossible to get information removed from ripoffreport.com? No, it doesn’t. Legal – and technical – remedies are available to businesses that have been falsely burned on Ripoff Report.

 

 

Don’t Sue Ripoff Report; Sue the Poster

Suing RipoffReport.com for defamation, over a report posted by a third-party, is almost always futile. Why? Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act confers online libel immunity to ISPs and webhosts for third-party postings, so long as they have nothing to do with producing or significantly editing the content in question.

Section 230 Delivered The Web You Know, Love and Now Need

At first thought, you may think, “Section 230 of the CDA is ludicrous! Print newspapers are held responsible for published articles, why shouldn’t websites be held to the same standard!?”

What is the difference between newspapers and websites? Simple: newspapers aren’t interactive, websites are. If Section 230 of the CDA didn’t exist, you’d never be able to leave a comment on a blog or forum. Without Section 230, the legal risk would be too dangerous for websites to allow user comments. Consumer review websites like Yelp! And even Amazon couldn’t survive in an atmosphere where ISPs were held responsible for the content of user comments. .

 

Get Defamatory Ripoff Report Pages Removed From Search Engines Instead

Though Section 230 of the CDA also protects search engines from being forced to remove list results in the U.S., some search engines voluntarily comply with court orders. Specifically, an order from a recognized judicial authority, which has declared the content unlawful (i.e. defamatory), is normally honored by search engines. There are differences in the types of court orders, and Google does not always honor them.

 

 

To summarize: if something on Ripoff Report is genuinely defamatory, some search engines may honor a court order to remove the libelous content from their indexes. That way, when someone searches for your name or business, the page on which the defamatory statement rests will not show up in search engine results, rendering the listing mostly invisible to the public. Additionally, Ripoff Report has indicated that they may redact certain information with a valid court order. (Note that every case is different, and the best solutions are usually within the details. A 500-word article is not an adequate vehicle to delve into the nuance of the related laws. If you are dealing with a libelous consumer review, speak with an experienced Ripoff Report removal attorney.)

 

Image Credit: Flickr/Joan Nova

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Kelly / Warner partner Daniel R. Warner started his legal career by earning one of the highest multi-state bar exam scores in the United States. Today, within the legal community, he’s earned the reputation of being an exceptional litigator whose laser-like attention to detail results in creative, effective solutions. In his role as a partner at Kelly / Warner, Daniel leads the firm’s litigation division, concentrating on business, defamation and bankruptcy law. Mr. Warner also works on various contractual matters, in addition to various commercial real estate issues. Today, Mr. Warner participates in the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce and State Bar of Arizona Members’ Assistance Committee, and is licensed to practice in all Arizona courts, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona. An exceptionally accomplished attorney, Mr. Warner is a fierce, but sensible, advocate for his clients. To learn more about Daniel Warner and Kelly / Warner Law, go to kellywarnerlaw.com

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