If consumers are not happy with a product or service there is always a chance that they will share their opinion via social media outlets. A number of consumers seek advice or reviews when going to purchase a product or invest in a service/experience, and can more than likely find answers online. This is also known as word of mouth. Word of mouth can be a company’s/marketer’s best friend or worst enemy depending on the consumers experience. Whether they are a consumer’s friend or a total stranger, 88 percent of people trust online reviews. What if I told you that your negative review on social media or online could result in a lawsuit?
As crazy as it sounds, businesses are going after consumers who post negative reviews. Exactly what are they suing reviewers for? Defamation. Defamation is the act of causing damages to the good reputation of an individual, or in this case a business, and can be classified as either libel (written) or slander (spoken). Of course since social media reviews are mostly written it would be considered libel.
The next question is whether the review is a fact or an opinion. If a review can be proven as truthful, it is not defamatory and consumers/reviewers may have a better chance at winning the case. While proving truth can be a challenge, trying to prove an opinion can be even more of a challenge. While some statements may sound like an opinion, it all comes down to the context. For example, if a review states that the manager of a store/restaurant is a loser, the statement made cannot be verified as truth, thus is classified as one’s opinion of another. However, if a review states that the manager was arrested for drugs, the person reviewing best hope the information is true because if it not then a lawsuit could be coming their way.
The following shows an example of what is consider libelous and non-libelous when it comes to posting reviews online:
(Image Retrieved from Probasco, 2015).
However, the best advice for all of us to avoid getting stuck in the middle of a defamation lawsuit is to “THINK” before posting something that is not true. Social media and the Internet are awesome tools that can be used for great things. Be polite and use common sense.
(Image Retrieved: http://mrlosik.com/?p=494).