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Defamation Lawyers

Defamation on Facebook

What to do if you are defamed on Facebook

Whilst fewer UK internet users appear to be using Facebook, the platform is still considered as a wealthy source of defamation against businesses of all shapes and sizes. So how would you react if you were to find out that someone had defamed you on Facebook?

Why is it challenging to discover Facebook defamation?

One of the main issues with defamation on Facebook is that it is often difficult to discover in a timely manner. Given that there is a statutory limitation period of 12 months in defamation cases, discovering defamation on Facebook as early as possible is crucial. Missing this window can significantly impair the ability to seek legal redress and protect one's reputation.

Defamation on Facebook often goes unnoticed for a long time by business owners until someone else points it out to them. The vast amount of content and the speed at which new posts are generated can make it challenging to monitor everything related to a business. Additionally, defamatory posts can be buried under other content or posted in less visible areas such as comments or closed groups, making them harder to detect.

In the UK, many businesses have chosen to avoid Facebook due to the ease with which they can be defamed. Despite the large community of consumers available on the platform, the risks associated with potential defamation are deemed too high by many. The decision to stay off Facebook is influenced by the balance between the benefits of reaching consumers and the potential harm from defamatory statements that might go unnoticed until significant damage has already been done.

The challenge of discovering defamation on Facebook is compounded by the platform's vast user base and the nature of social media, where information spreads rapidly and widely. Businesses that do choose to engage on Facebook must still invest in monitoring tools and strategies to detect negative content quickly. However, even with proactive measures, the sheer volume and speed of posts can make it difficult to catch every instance of defamation in time. This difficulty highlights the need for vigilant monitoring and a swift response to any potential defamatory content.

What are the specific defamation risks associated with Facebook?

The impact of false posts and threads on Facebook extends far beyond something you can simply ignore due to the communal nature of the platform. If someone defames your business, there is a real possibility that others will follow suit. This is why Facebook is often compared to a graffiti wall. Once a page gets tainted by one user, other users are likely to follow suit, adding their own negative views, opinions, or even fabricating stories to support other members of the community.

This can lead to a snowball effect, where the initial defamatory statement gains traction and credibility, severely damaging the reputation and credibility of the targeted business. Because of the communal nature of Facebook, the platform is often used to mobilise users to other platforms, such as Google Reviews, where they will repeat the negativity. This can lead to a broader dissemination of defamatory content, amplifying the damage to the business’s reputation across multiple online spaces. The widespread and permanent nature of these online posts means that defamatory statements can have long-lasting consequences, potentially affecting a business’s customer trust, sales, and overall success.

How to preserve evidence of Facebook Page defamation

When faced with being targeted for defamation on Facebook, it is important to take immediate action to protect your reputation and address the false statements made against you. Unfortunately, however, recovering from Facebook defamation could take time, depending on the nature of the posts and who the group of posters are. The first step is to carefully document all instances of the defamatory content, including screenshots, timestamps, and any relevant information about the individuals involved.

This evidence will be valuable when discussing the matter with legal professionals or when reporting the issue to Facebook. Additionally, we usually advise you to refrain from engaging in public arguments or retaliatory actions, as these can exacerbate the situation and damage your credibility. Preserving evidence in the right way is very important and often a time-consuming exercise. By carefully documenting and preserving evidence related to the defamatory statements made against you, you could establish a strong foundation for a defamation case which means you are more likely to have the entire thread removed move quickly.

This evidence can include screenshots of the posts or comments, timestamps, and any relevant information about the individuals involved. Whilst we say “screenshot” what we actually mean is a PDF printout of the each of the defamatory comments, together with important context (posts before and after). The PDF should have a date and time stamp, which a screenshot normally is missing. Make sure to as deep as you possibly can when investigating the defamation. Look at replies and replies to replies and so on. Preserve it all as you can never know when a particular post will become contentious.

Preserving evidence not only helps in building a solid case, but it also allows you to identify all the individuals who have taken part in the defamation campaign. This comprehensive documentation can reveal patterns in defamatory activity, such as coordinated efforts by multiple users, and highlight the main instigators. By meticulously collecting details about every post, comment, and interaction, you can trace the origins of the defamation and map out how it has spread. Identifying these individuals is crucial for several reasons: it provides a clearer picture of the scope and nature of the defamatory campaign, informs legal professionals to develop more targeted and effective strategies, and aids in reporting these users to Facebook for possible violations of their community standards.

This step can potentially lead to the offending accounts being flagged, restricted, or removed, thereby mitigating further harm to your reputation. Additionally, understanding the network of individuals involved can help in taking appropriate legal actions, such as sending cease-and-desist letters or pursuing defamation lawsuits against the most egregious offenders.

How to identify a Facebook Page administrator

Identifying the administrator of a defamatory Facebook page can be crucial in addressing and mitigating the impact of defamation. One effective method is filing a disclosure application to the court. Facebook usually does not object to these applications. If a solicitor is handling the matter, they can write to Meta (Facebook's parent company) to notify them of the need for disclosure.

Often, once Meta notifies the page administrator about the legal request for their information, the entire defamatory thread is deleted. This happens because the administrator, fearing identification and potential legal action for defamation, removes the offending content.

Another method is to use Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). OSINT involves tracking and analysing publicly available online information using specialised tools and expertise to identify the group administrator. Our firm conducts OSINT in-house, utilising these advanced techniques to uncover the identities behind anonymous profiles.

This process includes monitoring social media activity, cross-referencing information, and using various online tools to piece together clues about the administrator's identity. It’s important to note that even if the group administrator did not post any defamatory content themselves, they can still be held liable for defamation. This is because they allowed defamatory posts to be published under a Facebook page they manage. By identifying the administrator, you can hold them accountable for their role in facilitating the spread of defamatory content and take appropriate legal action to protect your reputation.

How does Facebook handle cases of defamation on its platform?

To its own users, Facebook is often unhelpful when it comes to handling cases of defamation. Many victims of defamation on Facebook complain that they have nowhere to turn or speak to, and that either they receive no response from Facebook or they get a generic response that often says "no". This lack of direct support can be frustrating and disheartening for individuals trying to protect their reputations from false and damaging statements. However, this attitude changes significantly when solicitors handle the matter.

When approached by lawyers, Meta (Facebook's parent company) is much more cooperative and responsive. They understand their responsibilities in terms of data protection and privacy law, and they tend to respond promptly to legal requests. Although their primary focus is on privacy and data protection, rather than defamation, the involvement of legal professionals often prompts a more helpful response.

Over more than a decade of cooperation, we have established good relationships with Meta, which are very beneficial to our clients. We were the first to obtain a disclosure order from Facebook over a decade ago. These established relationships enable us to facilitate more effective communication and quicker resolutions. When legal professionals intervene, Meta recognises the seriousness of the situation and the potential legal implications, leading to a more proactive approach in addressing the defamatory content.

Additionally, there are often issues of copyright and trademark that we can argue, which prompt helpful assistance from Meta in relation to the offending Facebook post. By leveraging these legal angles, we can ensure that Meta takes appropriate action to remove or address the defamatory content, thereby protecting our clients' reputations more effectively.

This strategic approach allows us to leverage Meta's responsiveness to legal inquiries to better protect our clients' reputations and address defamatory content efficiently. The established relationships and understanding between our firm and Meta significantly enhance our ability to resolve defamation issues on Facebook, providing our clients with the support and resolution they need.

Get in touch today for more information, advice and support.

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