The opinions of individuals, especially those perceived as experts or celebrities, tend to have a powerful impact on the public. There are some people who make a career out of reviewing products or services and making their opinions public. There are countless others who choose to share their perceptions and opinions online.
Oftentimes, there is a presumption that the First Amendment, which grants freedom of speech, exempts individuals and even businesses from personal responsibility for the impact of their language. However, there are exceptions to the right of an individual to speak freely. Directly inciting violence is one example. Intentionally defaming others is another. Those who believe they have experienced defamation can pursue a lawsuit against the party that spoke poorly of them.
Personal opinions can lead to defamation claims
There is a popular saying that the best defense to a defamation allegation is the truth. If someone can prove that the claims that they made were accurate, the other party would no longer be able to insist that they were defamatory. However, opinions and critiques that may highlight the flaws in a product or service are often based on one person’s perception and therefore not objectively provable.
There’s a tendency for people to exaggerate online specifically to make their stories or content more compelling. A critique or review that exaggerates circumstances and makes a brand, product or individual seem dangerous or unsavory could constitute defamation in some cases. The more extreme the negative statements and opinions of the person doing the critiquing or reviewing, the stronger the potential case on the part of the other party to raise a claim of defamation.
Additionally, factors such as the ongoing relationship between the two parties and the possible motive behind the critique or review could also come into play. Someone hired by a competing business to create negative reviews for a brand would likely be more vulnerable to defamation claims than someone who really just wanted to share their own negative experience online.
Fighting defamation can be a challenge
Online reviews and other forms of critique can do real damage to an individual or a brand, especially if the content ends up going viral. Pursuing a defamation claim in civil court is one way to control the damage and possibly to seek compensation for the harm caused by the over-the-top opinion of another party.
Seeking legal guidance concerning the details of a situation that seems unfair and defamatory can help someone more effectively evaluate whether or not they have grounds for a defamation case. Pushing back against biased reviews and critiques intended to harm a brand or benefit competitors can be a difficult process, but doing so may be worthwhile for those unfairly impacted by the misconduct of others.