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Fighting Back Against Anonymous Defamation on the Internet: A Case Study

The Internet and social media have empowered us to communicate like never before.  Obviously there are major benefits, including that we can communicate on a real-time basis to a broad audience while obtaining information about businesses including reviews, ratings and other customer feedback.

Unfortunately, cyberspace also has a dark side, because it provides a platform for Internet users to anonymously publish false information that can be professionally and personally devastating.  Whether it is a calculated attack by a competitor or former employee or a spontaneous rant by a disgruntled customer or personal enemy, online anonymous defamation can cause serious harm to a business or person resulting in massive financial losses and permanent reputational injury.

Under California law, defamation is a publication that is false, derogatory, unprivileged and that has a natural tendency to cause injury or special damage.  Despite the feelings of keyboard courage or anonymity that embolden some Internet posters, under the law anonymous statements made online can constitute defamation.  The core issue is whether a statement asserts, either explicitly or implicitly, a provably false statement of fact.

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