US Websites allowed to let users post defamatory comments!

Firstly, I am expressing these views according to my 1st amendment rights. I make a living from Internet Marketing which includes reputation control for my clients which is hard to achieve when websites like Apartment Ratings allow for libelous content to be posted and refuse to take it down when requested by the defamed hiding behind the 1st amendment rights to free speech.

What is more scary is that US law allows for websites to not be held liable for it’s users comments (see 47 U.S.C. § 230), often irreparably damaging the person and/or business’ reputation. The only recourse is to take legal action which is often costly and small businesses often don’t have the financial resources to mount a legal challenge. Even if a legal case is established and won, the damage will have been done as the comments will have been on the Internet for months or years.

You can argue that if you provide a better service, you wouldn’t have to deal with such comments on the Internet, but these review sites are hopelessly skewed as no-one ever writes a review on a website unless they are unhappy. And with property management, these reviews are often untrue because it’s vindictive people that have been evicted for a whole gamut of different reasons. I can accept that there are genuine complaints as well and I have no issue with those comments on review/opinions sites, these comments force businesses to change and make their service better.

I personally like the instant exposure of bad service via opinion based websites and social media but at the same time there has to be legislation which protects business owners while allowing for the right to free speech. 47 U.S.C. § 230 passed in 1996 has effectively allowed website owners and the general public ruin someones business with little to no recourse without expensive legal action.

One thought on “US Websites allowed to let users post defamatory comments!

  • Brian commented on August 14, 2013 at 22:07

    The DMCA is a system where copyright owners are able to send a notice and cause material to be taken down. I agree with your comments and this could easily be expanded to include a claim that something posted is false. The DMCA system has a counter-notice system and penalties to prevent abuse.

    The problem may be copyright owners such as large media corporations are able to lobby (pay) to get their content protected, but others, often individuals and small businesses harmed by defamatory comments, do not have similar legislative pull.

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