According to a recent news story on the BBC, a Cardiff based solicitors is taking a lot of cases at the moment as a result of comments and accusations posted by people on Facebook. The Welsh based law firm has taken on half a dozen cases involving defamation of character via Facebook this year, which included comments on Facebook, profiles that were faked to cause offense and even digitally altered photographs.
The main issue is that posts made on Facebook can be visible not just to friends and family, but to the whole Internet – unless the user in question is very strict with their profile’s privacy settings. Speaking to the BBC Radio Wales programme, Eye On Wales, Tracey Singlehurst-Ward, a lawyer, commented:
“Everyone can be a publisher now. What appears to them to be a throwaway remark could actually cause a huge impact.”
“Once it’s written down there on the page of the internet for all to see, and literally a huge audience to see, it’s there, it’s permanent, and the damage is done.”
Tracey Singlehurst-Ward gave an example of a recent case where legal action had been taken for defamation of character over Facebook. She spoke of a woman who worked with children:
“An associate of hers who wasn’t a friend wrote on something called the wall, making allegations of violence against this woman.”
“That escalated because the employer and her regulatory body saw those comments. It resulted in a huge investigation.”
The BBC article went on to add that instead of legal action, which can be costly, the use of reputation management via search engine optimisation is also a potential way to diffuse the effect of comments made about a business online. Of course, where the BBC goes wrong is how it offers up reputation management as an option for individuals as opposed to legal action. Reputation management is extremely complicated, and is one of the most advanced forms of SEO; thus it can also be one of the most expensive – therefore it isn’t really applicable for individuals wanting to bury certain search results.
Reputation management can help to bury unsavoury results in the search engines, but if something is wholly untrue it is best to get it removed altogether.