The fact that anyone can turn to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to post a negative review of a hairdresser, plumber or politician, indeed to denigrate whatever or whoever they choose, in the heat of the moment or otherwise, has resulted in defamation being employed increasingly regularly as a legal tool.
Yet the nature of social media means, like it or not, that the resolution process is also increasingly likely to be played out in public view.
In such instances, legal and communications teams must work closely together.
A prominent London-based media and defamation lawyer with whom I met recently advises the following broad principles for dealing with online defamation:
- Balance the legal and reputational aspects of defamation carefully from the get-go
- Negotiate a reasonable solution where possible and deploy litigation only as the final solution
- When an issue is legally black and white, move fast to limit the potential for the falsehood to escalate
- Make sure to use language that is user-friendly rather than overtly legalistic in all instances.
This is music to the ears of communicators, who are often left to deal with the reputational impact of legal strong-arming.
The principles above are laid out in an article I have penned for PR Week Asia.