While today’s digital age has presented countless new opportunities for businesses to showcase their products and services online, it has created just as many opportunities for businesses to be the victim of online defamation. If you’re a business owner, online defamation is a risk, regardless of whether you’re active online or not.

What Counts as Online Defamation?

Most businesses will have some form of negative content online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve been the victim of defamation. A negative Google review from someone saying they didn’t enjoy their experience at your coffee shop is unfortunate, but not defamatory. If the review falsely states that your coffee shop regularly serves expired food products, on the other hand, then that’s another story.

Traditional defamation is the communication of false, injurious information that is available to a third party. Online defamation is very much the same but with the key difference being that it takes place online. Online business reviews, blogs, articles, social media posts, and videos (just to name a few) can all potentially be defamatory.

Consequences of Online Defamation

The most obvious consequence of online defamation is a loss of business. Online defamation can lead to the loss of existing customers, fewer new customers and, ultimately, a loss of revenue.

For most consumers, doing a quick Google search on a business before buying from them is common practice. What they find online in the form of business reviews, blogs, and articles is playing an ever more important role in their purchasing decisions. Even just one negative article on a business’s first page can turn away up to 22% of prospective customers!1

It’s also not uncommon for businesses to suffer from public embarrassment and possibly even harassment from the press after being the victim of online defamation. This could ultimately result in more negative online content, damaging your business’s reputation even further.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, online defamation can also be damaging psychologically. A false, unsubstantiated review or article can be a major thorn in the side of business-owners, large and small. It’s not always easy to cope with the knowledge that a false statement online is doing severe damage to your business’s reputation.

What Can You Do About Online Defamation?

When it comes to online defamation, deciding what to do is best handled on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the nature of the defamation, a lawsuit might be the way to go. Alternatively, it’s sometimes better to simply move on and work towards building your business’s positive reputation instead.

1 https://moz.com/blog/new-data-reveals-67-of-consumers-are-influenced-by-online-reviews