When your online rant can get you sued


In my last three posts, we covered online defamation from the business owner’s perspective.  Today, we look at it from the consumer’s perspective.

The local NBC affiliate in Houston interviewed me and others for a story about it you can watch here.

The way the story was edited, it almost appeared I support suing consumers when ”sounding off crosses the line when it goes beyond personal and turns factual.”  It really should be that when it goes beyond opinion and you state facts that are not true, you can get sued. 

An example I used in the interview not aired was if you said I was a lousy lawyer, I couldn’t sue you for that opinion.  But, if you said I stole your money or was even a fraudster or a criminal (things that can be proven), I might have a claim.

It’s almost a Hobson’s Choice for the consumer.  From my own personal experience, I prefer reviews that state why the customer was not pleased.  I want to know why you think they are horrible with specifics which is a way you can cross the line and get in trouble if you stretch the truth.  

And this goes without saying, it is certainly a bad idea to write a fake review about your competitor.

Finally, it’s not all bad for consumers.  As discussed in my series and in this post, Texas’ version of the anti-SLAPP should act as a deterrent to any companies who overstep their bounds by wrongfully suing a  consumer over a review.

It was interesting to be juxtaposed with Ed Magedson of RipOff Report when at the end we basically agreed that if you simply state your opinion, you should be safe. 

If this was a point-counterpoint, I might respond to Mr. Magedson that although I am as big a fan of the First Amendment as the next guy, RipOff Report is no saint and hasn’t won all of its cases on pure First Amendment grounds.  Instead, RipOff Report thrives because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which prevents you from suing the website operator for the content posted there by others.  The merits of that immunity can be debated another day.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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