Thursday, October 25, 2012

Free Speech, Defamation Collide on Web

Another example of free speech and reputation management in the news today.  A Minnesota doctor took offense when a patient's son posted critical remarks about him on some rate-your-doctor websites, including a comment by a nurse who purportedly called the doctor, "a real tool".

Lawsuits over professional reviews are uncommon in part because most patients write positive reviews.  Many states have laws that block the kind of lawsuits that are filed mainly to scare someone into shutting up on matters of public concern.

Known as "strategic lawsuits against public participation," those complaints are often forbidden by broad laws that protect criticism even if its wrong.  When health care providers do sue, they rarely succeed.  Of 28 such lawsuits tracked, 16 had been dismissed and six settled.  The others are pending.

What does this mean for lawyers and law firms?  The best defense against these kinds of negative reviews is a good offense. Claim and build as many highly trafficked site profiles about yourself or your firm as you can.   That way you can occupy the top hits on the front page of Google or at the very least mitigate one or two bad reviews with a plethora of good ones.  Commit to one a week!!!

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