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What is Internet Defamation and How to Protect Against it?

What is Internet Defamation and How to Protect Against it?

With the rise of social media and other user-generated content platforms, it is becoming increasingly more common to encounter defamatory statements and attacks online everyday. For individuals, victims of internet defamation may experience emotional distress, humiliation, and in some cases even depression. For businesses, internet defamation can lead to negative publicity, a declining bottom line, and having to close one’s doors for good. The stakes are high for individuals and businesses that are defamed online (especially in the public media), so it is imperative to act strategically and as quickly as possible.

This brings us to two key questions; what is internet defamation and what can you do about it?

What is Internet Defamation?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a leading nonprofit defending digital privacy and free speech, defines defamation as “A false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone’s reputation, and published ‘with fault’, meaning as a result of negligence or malice.”

Internet defamation most commonly manifests itself in false statements and attacks published to personal and professional blogs, online forums, professional review websites, news publications, and social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

How to Deal With Internet Defamation

While the tort of defamation is not codified at the federal level in the U.S., all states possess their own statutes governing defamation and its remedies for victims. In order to strengthen your legal claim for internet defamation and maximize your chances of its removal from the internet and remedies, you must first preserve all evidence surrounding the false content. This includes the documentation of:

  • The content itself (of course);
  • The URL of the content;
  • The website or platform where the false content is published;
  • Search results used to locate the false content;
  • Any user account or profile page behind the false content (if applicable);  
  • Your business’s average star or point rating with the review (if applicable).

What poses the biggest issue for victims of internet defamation is ensuring that the preserved evidence meets legal evidentiary requirements and standards. This is critical for proving to a court of law that the evidence in question was not fabricated, tampered with, or otherwise spoliated.

Once you have preserved all necessary and relevant defamatory evidence, then it is time to proceed with the removal process. Internet defamation removal can be difficult without properly preserving evidence and establishing a proper evidentiary chain of custody; you risk being unable to prove to a court or website that evidence proffered is genuine. This may ultimately cost you significant time and money, and may result in having your defamation lawsuit dismissed or thrown out altogether.

To best ensure your internet defamation claim is handled effectively, we recommend that you speak with an experienced internet defamation attorney. While internet defamation may strike at any time and affect anyone, arming yourself with the knowledge of how to properly preserve evidence and proceed next will elevate your chances of succeeding in a defamation claim.

How to Preserve Defamatory Evidence

We recommend that you utilize one of these built-in features on your computer to preserve defamatory online evidence:

  • Snip & Sketch (Windows) or Control + Shift + 4 (macOS);
  • Microsoft’s ‘Print to PDF’ (press Ctrl + P and select the content as the destination);
  • Google Chrome’s ‘Save as PDF’ (press Ctrl + P in Chrome and select the web address as the destination);
  • Mobile screenshots - however, this should be used as a last resort. 

To comprehensively preserve defamatory online evidence, along with the content at issue, make sure to save both the date and time. Both Microsoft’s ‘Print to PDF’ and Google Chrome’s ‘Save as PDF’ are your best options of the aforementioned four, as they automatically save the date and time along with the page in question. Snip & Sketch and Mobile screenshots do also save both the date and time as well, however it is saved using the file’s meta-data - which may easily be tampered with.

If you are serious about giving your defamation claim and case the best chance possible to succeed, utilizing a professional-grade evidentiary preservation service is recommended. Professional-grade preservation tools and services are automatic and ensure the evidence in question is authentic by ruling out any potential technical errors that often occur during the preservation process.

The other reason for using an online service is that some of them capture all changes in the evidence that are made over time. A twitter or Facebook post can be deleted from an account or modified by the incriminating party and changes can sometimes paint a better picture of the motives of the defaming party at court. This provides internet defamation victims with a complete peace of mind!

1. Visualping

Visualping is a website change detection, monitoring, and alerts service that enables individuals and businesses to monitor web pages, detect changes, and receive alerts about online content. During this preservation process, Visualping will create a snapshot of a web page, which victims of defamation can subsequently use as evidence in their defamation legal proceedings.

Visualping is extremely easy to use. Simply follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Enter the URL you want to monitor and click Go
  • Step 2: Select the area of the web page that you want to monitor for changes; 
  • Step 3: Type in your email and click the green button to start monitoring the entered URL.

After establishing the web page that you want to monitor for activity changes, Visualping will send you an email every time it detects a change to the web page and its content.

For example, to remove fake Google reviews it is essential that you receive notifications and alerts anytime a new review is posted to your Google My Business profile. Visualping enables you to spot a fake online review immediately after it is posted and flag or report it in a timely manner. Failing to flag or report a fake online review in a timely manner could ultimately result in further negative publicity and influence prospective (or current) customers and clients to engage with a competitor instead. 

Visualping will attach page and URL screenshots to every email, making it one of the most comprehensive evidence collection tools out there. Furthermore, Visualping users may track the last five changes to a web page via the dashboard.

You will be able to try the service for free as Visualping enables users to conduct over 60 checks per month without having to use your credit card. Upgrades to premium features and more checks start at $10 a month or more.

2. Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine by Internet Archive, a non-profit organization, is an online tool that enables individuals and businesses to “go back in time” and view web pages as they appeared throughout their history on the internet. For example, if you type “” into the Wayback Machine search bar and select “Browse History,” you will be able to view the Google website as it appeared all the way back to November, 1998 - this includes the Google Beta just after its inception in September, 1997. 

The Wayback Machine is an effective tool for identifying and saving defamatory online evidence. Under ‘Save Page Now’ users can enter the web address of any public web page that they want to “go back in time” to view and save that page. The saved copy will provide accurate images and snapshots of the inputted website at various times throughout its history where changes occurred. This saved copy may then be used as timestamped evidence for an internet defamation claim. 

However, the Wayback Machine can only save public web pages and may encounter problems saving overly complex websites, such as Facebook or Twitter. Additionally, Wayback Machine users cannot control the frequency of checks and snapshots conducted so it will not be as accurate as Visualping but it will allow you to check whether the incriminating evidence was captured ahead of using Visualping.

What to Do After Preserving the Evidence

When it comes to preserving internet defamation and online content, Visualping works wonders for accurately documenting all web pages on the internet. Moreover, unlike the Wayback Machine, Visualping supports indexing login-protected, password-protected, and paywalled websites and offers highly customizable and advanced options for its users. This makes Visualping the clear choice for individuals and businesses seeking to comprehensively preserve online evidence and monitor their online reputation.   

The truth of the matter is that in today’s digital landscape, everyone may potentially be a victim of internet defamation. If you are being defamed or maliciously attacked online, remember to preserve all evidence and speak with an experienced internet attorney to help resolve your issue.

Want to know when a web page changes?

Visualping is a simple tool that helps over 1 million users effortlessly detect important changes on any web page.

Want to know when a web page changes?

Start Monitoring Now (It's Free)

Want to know when a web page changes?

Visualping is a simple tool that helps over 1 million users effortlessly detect important changes on any web page.

Start Monitoring Now (It's Free)

Aaron Minc

Aaaron Minc works for MincLaw in Orange Village Ohio and is an attorney specialised in online defamation. This post is a modified version of a longer blog about Internet Defamation in MincLaw’s website.