Defamation Of A Business In Nigeria On Social Media In Nigeria: Nearly no business gent or lady can claim that social media has made no form of impact on their business.
Positively at least. In today’s digital age, social media has become a powerful tool for businesses to promote their products and services, engage with customers, and build brand reputation.
It’s so easy to pick up your device and upload posts about your business and brand on various social media platforms and then sit back to enjoy the fruits of new clients.
Not to mention the encouraging comments some of your brand lovers post in the reply section! Well, that’s the fun part! Sadly our dear social media can also be a double-edged sword.
With the ease and speed of communication on social media platforms, it has become increasingly common for unscrupulous individuals to use social media to make false and damaging statements about businesses, which can have serious consequences for the brand and business reputation. This is known as defamation of a business on social media.
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What is Defamation: Defamation is a legal term that refers to the act of making false statements that harm the reputation of an individual or organization.
In the case of a business, defamation can take many forms, including false or misleading reviews, negative comments, and accusations of illegal or unethical behavior.
Defamation of business on social media may occur as:
1. Slander: This defamation occurs orally and need not be published. It is false and damaging statements about a person or business, orally uttered.
2. Libel: This is a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, or other fixed representation to the eye.
Defamation does not just occur when someone who doesn’t fancy your business makes a religion of expressing his dislike for your brand! Nah! That will open up a floodgate of cases!
Certainly, there are some brands you will give anything to see them wiped from existence!
For defamation to exist, certain elements must be established:
- It must have been published by a third party! Another eye other than yours must have seen, read, or watched the defamatory content.
- Such a statement must be false. This is sad because admittedly you are allowed to make mistakes at some point while building your brand. If a cold-hearted individual leverages this, you may find it difficult to establish defamation. The defamatory content has to be false in the sense that such an allegation never happened.
- Some damage must have resulted from such defamation. Unfortunately that rush of adrenaline, panic, and subsequent resentment you feel when you see a mean post about your brand doesn’t count as damage! You will have to show that your business lost some value, or prospects or there’s been a devaluation of your brand’s worth!
Mark Twain once said that “oftentimes by the time a lie has traveled halfway around the world, the truth could still be buckling his shoes“.
The truth and consequence of this statement are even made worse with the far-reaching tentacles of social media.
So you wake up in the morning joyful and happy only to see a defamatory comment on your post or a whole post specially dedicated to demeaning your brand! Well, don’t panic!
The following steps are here to walk you through what to do if you discover that some fellow has singled out your brand for his mischievous intents!
Steps To Take As A Victim Of Defamation Of Business On Social Media
- Be calm and Clear Headed
- Collect Evidence
- Request Content Removal
- Seek Legal Advice if they Refuse to Remove The Defamatory Content
- Issue a Cease and Desist letter
- Take Legal Action If they ignore The Cease And Desist Action
- Step into the spotlight like a rising sun
Let us have a full discussion on these steps
1. Be Calm And Clear Headed: This may seem like a cliche step. Who wouldn’t recommend a clear head during difficult times? Yet as common as it may sound, it is the first and most important step to take as a victim of defamation.
Remember the rush of adrenaline, panic, and later resentment you may feel at the outset does not count as the damage to business you need to prove to establish a case of business defamation.
In addition to this, a back-and-forth between you and the malicious content creator will only worsen the case.
Take deep breaths and avoid open confrontations. Now read the heading again! It says to be “calm and clear-headed“, it doesn’t say “do nothing“! Time is of the essence when it comes to business defamation.
False news only takes a good data connection to spread across the world.
Hence acting swiftly is in your best interests. Be calm and think straight but act fast. Don’t act on that immediate vengeful impulse.
2. Collect Evidence: Take detailed evidence of the defamatory content! Don’t let anything out of your sight! Screenshot, screen-record, save pictures and videos. Record URLs and save web pages where the statement was made.
Do all you can to preserve any and every evidence you can find as soon as you see the content.
You will definitely need them to build a strong case against your business assailant.
Most times these individuals take down their posts almost as soon as they make them or the social media platform takes them down for violation of terms, but then the damage may already have been done given the speed at which lies travel.
Hence it is important you act very swiftly to get all necessary evidence safe.
In addition to this, document evidence of damage that the defamatory content has caused you such as a reduction in sales, subsequent poor customer reviews, etc.
This will help you fulfil the third element of defamation of business on social media which is proof of damage in the event you take up legal action.
3. Request Content Removal: Contact the website or platform and ask for the removal of the defamatory content.
Most platforms and websites have mechanisms for reporting and removing content that violates their policies.
In addition to this, some third-party agents act as independent content removal companies.
It may be tempting to engage them, however, bear in mind that their services don’t offer a permanent solution as the said removed content may reappear later.
More so, some of these independent content removal companies are often the same persons who made the defamatory posts so that you can seek them out in your desperation.
Don’t fall for this! Be careful when searching or engaging the services of independent content removal companies.
4. Seek Legal Advice: Your best friend in these times is a lawyer! Yes, seek legal advice.
Sometimes the law surrounding defamation may be tricky and you will definitely a legal paddle to wade through these waters.
Get an experienced attorney in this area to guide you through processes such as writing a cease and desist letter, issuing warnings, etc.
A sound attorney will also weigh the ups and downs of your situation and give a proper verdict on whether to take legal action.
Some Nigerian top law firms in these regards are Aluko & Oyebode, TEMPLARS, G. Elias, etc.
5. Issue A Cease And Desist Letter: This is one way your attorney can help you immensely! A cease and desist letter is a letter directing a person or an organization to immediately refrain from doing an act.
In this case, a cease and desist letter will clearly instruct the unscrupulous individuals to take down/delete the post and/or retract their defamatory assertions.
You should send a cease and desist letter as soon as possible.
Predictably, the individual(s) in question may decide to ignore such a directive in which case you may resort to immediate legal action.
However, a strongly worded letter from a sound attorney will definitely send some jitters down their spine which will surely make them consider the instructions in the cease and desist letter.
6. Take Legal Action: Suing is often the most effective remedy especially if a cease and desist letter has been ignored.
Determine the appropriate court where you should file your case.
In Nigeria, defamation cases are usually filed in either a State High Court or the Federal High Court, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Your lawyer can help you determine the most suitable court.
Work with your lawyer to prepare the required legal documents, such as a statement of claim, affidavit, and any supporting evidence.
These documents will outline your case and the relief you are seeking.
As the case proceeds, you will need to attend court hearings and present your evidence to support your claim.
Your lawyer will represent you in court and argue your case. Make sure you seek damages.
In a successful defamation case, you may be entitled to various remedies, such as damages (compensation for the harm caused), an injunction to restrain the defendant from making further defamatory statements, and a public apology.
7. Step Into The Spotlight Like The Rising Star That You Are: Yes, this sounds dramatic! But it’s exactly what you should do! Step in like the rising sun and drive away the gloom that preceded your entry.
Delete the image of the dark and sinister defamation from the minds of your clients and fans. Yes, it sounds too easy.
However, expert manipulation of words and an artful maneuver of the circumstances will leave your online market wondering what sort of a jobless fellow your assailant is!
Remember to keep silent and leave your online audience guessing if the allegations are true or false.
However, making a statement will satisfy your fans and the online market that you are in the right.
The good news is you don’t have to do this by yourself! You can always hire the services of any good social media manager in your area.
Be sure to check the track record of your prospective online manager so you don’t go from frying pan to fire!
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Admittedly defamation to business is like an enchanted nightmare! Thankfully it is not without an elixir!
Follow the above steps and remember, that each defamation case is unique, It is important to consult with a legal professional to understand the specific steps and strategies best suited for your situation.
Prompt but cool-headed action, documentation, and seeking legal guidance are key to protecting your business’s reputation and minimizing the impact of defamation on social media.