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If your business is defamed on social media, can you sue?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Business Law |

You can spend your entire life building up your business from scratch – only to see the whole operation tumble down because of a social media lie.

It can happen very easily. Just take a look at the case involving the Ohio family bakery falsely accused of racial profiling by a staffer of Oberlin College after a shoplifting incident. While the bakery was eventually cleared of wrongdoing and the shoplifters pled guilty, the business suffered immense financial losses and had to lay off half its staff.

The bakery eventually sued for defamation and won – and that’s something that other businesses can do also. In some cases, it’s absolutely necessary if you want your business to survive

What is defamation?

It’s important to remember that a bad review isn’t the same as defamation. Most of the time, bad reviews reflect someone’s personal experience or perspective, and they’re just a matter of opinion. To be defamatory and actionable, you would have to show that the social media statement was both untrue and presented as a fact.

What’s the difference? A statement like, “I didn’t like the customer service at Joe’s Body Shop and their prices are too high!” is an opinion, not defamation. However, a statement like, “Joe’s Body Shop scams its customers by performing unnecessary and unauthorized repairs!” is presented as a fact. If it’s untrue, that’s defamation.

A lot of consumers pay close attention to online reviews of local businesses – whether those reviews are on Yelp, Facebook or somewhere else. Defamatory reviews can ultimately destroy your company’s future unless you fight back.