The U.S. law governing online content is outdated. A 2011 ruling in a New York City court of appeals that would still stand today illustrates this reality.
The court dismissed a businessman for filing a suit against a competitor for consistently posting “false and defamatory statements of fact” online that were clearly intended to injure the claimant’s reputation.
The judge noted that the comments about the claimant were “unquestionably offensive and obnoxious,” but held that the defendants were protected under the Communications Decency Act, which shields Web site operators from liability when they publish and edit material that they did not create.
In plain English: nothing could stop the poster from continuing to publish libel that, were it in print, would probably make him the subject of a successful lawsuit.
Trust is one of four pillars that create reputation. But situations like the one above influence reputations in a way that is unfair (and should not be legal). That is why establishing and maintaining a strong online reputation is an increasing social and professional asset for individuals and businesses alike. It is also why an update of internet laws is far overdue.