Internet Defamation and Libel Update:
Our internet lawyers receive dozens of emails and calls from prospective clients each week complaining about defamation on the internet. Ripoff Report, found at www.ripoffreport.com, is all too often the publisher of false statements of fact. In a somewhat ironic twist, Ripoff Report screwed up one of their Google Webmaster Tools settings causing the entire site to be removed from the Google Search results. The incident is reported here.
Click the following link for more information about lawsuits filed against Ripoff Reports for defamation and libel.
Ed Magedson, Editor and Founder of Ripoff Report, has an interesting quote about the incident: “It was an in-your-face reminder that sites like Ripoff Report depend on Google to survive.” Many an internet lawyer would prefer to see RipoffReport.com permanently delisted by Yahoo and Google. While Ripoff Report purports to be a consumer advocacy website, many attorneys dealing with postings on the site believe it is merely a scam designed to extort money from people who have had false information posted about them. Defamation on the internet can cause real-world consequences. A doctor, physician, plumber, judge, or other business professional can have their reputation permanently ruined on websites which encourage consumer complaints. While there is no doubt some legitimate complaints posted on sites like RipoffReport.com, complaintsboard.com, stop-scammers.com, yelp.com as well as others, there is no doubt near endless defamation occurring as well. Competitors, people with gripes having nothing to do with the complaints lodged, people who are mentally ill—virtually anyone can post anything on these sites. Because the internet defamation is occurring on a powerhouse website, a search for a person’s name, or company name, can be in the first several results of a Google or Yahoo search return.
Libel on the Internet is a problem which continues to grow. Companies like RipoffReport, Complaints Board, and others hide behind Section 230 Immunity, which potentially insulates them from liability for user-generated content, including posts or comments that amount to defamation under state law. Your on-line reputation is important. You definitely need to protect it. Note that Section 230 immunity does not exist where a publisher edits, changes or authors content which is defamatory. There has been evidence in prior cases where in fact Ripoff Report has admited to engaging in exactly that kind of immunity. There are solid legal arguments that Ripoff Report and its owner, Xcentric Ventures, have lost Section 230 Immunity in at least some, and perhaps all, instances.
The Daily SEO Blog has an interesting article from 2008 titled "Accusations that Rip-Off Report is just an Extortion Business".
Contact an internet defamation attorney for more information if you have been the subject of internet libel.