Some days, I start to think that Facebook was one of the worst things that was ever introduced to the Internet. Why? It seems people get so wrapped up in its use and then carry out attacks, bullyings, defamation to businesses, and all kinds of people. It’s amazing just what people will do when they get on Facebook, and out of all the requests for help we get, I would say Facebook receives a disproportionate share in terms of volume. I don’t believe it’s because that so many people are on Facebook, it’s just that people like this platform to really start bashing others.
One thing that always surprises others is that Facebook often won’t step in and remove damaging material. In Facebook’s Terms of Service, they discuss allowed versus potentially banned behavior and so what many people will do, is they will read the Terms of Service and they’ll say, “Look, this is not right, this is outside of your Terms of Service, you need to take action.” In reality, however, what we see is that rarely Facebook will enforce these issues and I’m sure there’s lots of legal reasons why they choose to do that. As a consequence, see case after case after case where Facebook was contacted and essentially no response was received back from them, and of course it’s almost impossible to get somebody on the phone. Obviously, this becomes a very frustrating thing.
Another type of issue that we see all the time is impersonation on Facebook. In this type of attack, what somebody does is anonymously opens an account posing as another person, then starts posting horrible material. Basically, they begin attacking others as if they’re the person they’re impersonating and they start friending others, sending messages, et cetera, and it can really be damaging to the person that they are impersonating. Often, what others believe is that they are dealing with the real person rather than this fictitious person, and so what this can do is very quickly destroy a person’s reputation. Imagine if somebody’s out there posing as you saying all kinds of things, reaching out to friends and contacts and saying anything they want with the idea that they are going to harm your reputation. It’s amazing what kind of damage they can do very quickly.
When you’re facing defamation on Facebook, then the order of events that you should consider is
1) Try contacting Facebook via their Web form. I wouldn’t hold your breath, but sometimes they do come through. Standard practice is reach out to them and see if they’ll solve it for you.
2) Next, if possible, is if you know who’s doing this, then try to resolve it with a person. Believe me, while this may be difficult, it is much cheaper than if this escalates into some legal type of issue.
3) Next is always document, document, document. Ideally save screenshots but at a bare minimum, make sure that you print out the material. Don’t copy from the Web page and then paste into a Word document, but actually print it out the full web page.
4) Next is go to a third party to try to get stopped if everything else is not working. For example, what we often do is, especially in a Facebook type of attack, we gather information during an investigation and we do it in such a way that often the antagonist gets the message and then often is they decide, “Uh-oh, this person’s serious” and they end up stopping and that’s most of the time what you’re really after is trying to get them to stop.
5) Last, in very severe cases you can then look at bringing a lawsuit against the party, even if doing anonymously. Many people say, “I don’t know who I’d sue because I can’t recognize the person.” Don’t worry about that, reach out to us, we can help you on that issue. That’s the kind of thing that we do every single day.