mourning

Blogger Under Attack

rhinoNo matter how thick skinned you may think you are any personal attack hurts. One that defames your personal reputation or your brand is bound to trigger anger.  However, reacting emotionally rather than responding intelligently is extremely unwise. Take your time to consider the actions you can take before you respond and others will think better of you for keeping your blogging cool.

Defamation is a false accusation of an offense or a malicious misrepresentation of someone’s words or actions harming a person’s reputation and character.  If  spoken and repeated, it is slander; if printed, it is libel. Harassment is repeated conduct that is unwanted and is known to be offensive.

Case law has established that the Internet is not a wild west environment beyond the arm of the law. The right to freedom of speech comes with responsibilities and there is no such thing as anonymity. Judges can and have ordered Internet service providers to disclose the identity of people using pseudonyms to defame others.

If you are the target of a defamer first consider the seriousness of the article or comment.

  • Does it distort the facts?
  • Does it libel you? (Libel is a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation. The legal rule of thumb is:  ‘fair comment’ must reflect an honestly held opinion on an issue of public interest based upon proven fact and must not be motivated by malice.)
  • Is there any actual damage done?
  • Or does it merely hurt your ego?

If you have been a victim of either of libel or slander, there are steps you can take.  Your first step for responding intelligently to another person who has personally attacked and defamed you is to contact the author and/or Admin of the blog, politely refute the statements(s) made and ask them to take down the content in question. Wherever possible I recommend doing that privately.

If you take further steps you must you provide proof of the false statement and any responses made to the statement.  It’s important to read the policies of  your web host before acting.

If your attacker/defamer is a WordPress.com blogger as well then you will find relevant information at the links in the excerpts below:

The team behind WordPress.com strongly believes in freedom of speech. Our service is designed to let internet users freely express any ideas and opinions without us censoring or endorsing them.

Private user data – In general, we keep the following private data about WordPress.com sites and users (we may have additional information for premium users as set forth in our privacy policy).

A set of rules for WordPress.com blogs about what content is and isn’t acceptable on our service. If you have an issue with a blog on our system, please select one of the following to route your complaint.

Defamation, liability WordPress.com is an internet service provider. We are based in the US, as are all of our servers. As such we are covered by section 230(c) of the US Communications Decency Act which states that internet service providers are not held liable for content (such as allegedly defamatory, offensive, inaccurate, or harassing content) that is posted on the sites they host for their users.

Defamation, abuse, threats: We suspend content for inciting violence or threatening or impersonating a private person.

Private information – If you find private information published on a WordPress.com blog you can report it via the abuse form.

These guidelines are intended for lawyers or government officials who seek information about a WordPress.com user or action against a resource hosted on our network. Dispute Resolution & Reporting » Legal Guidelines

Because it’s frequently done anonymously and because launching a libel action further publicizes the libel, cyber-libel is difficult to deal with. When examining your options see Handle Online Attacks Effectively,  What to do when your blog is attacked and What a Buddhist Monk Taught Me About Blogging.

Set up Google Alerts so you are aware of what’s being said about you, where and by whom. For managing your  online reputation, consider checking out these comment tracking services and tools:

Related posts found in this blog:
Keeping your blogging cool
How to remove data from Google’s cache
Libel: Blogging Rights and Wrongs
How to handle negative comments

37 thoughts on “Blogger Under Attack

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. Being under attack is stressful but losing it and lashing back emotionally and publicly is a serious mistake one can live to regret.

  1. Hi Timethief,
    Love your work. Like I have mentioned before, your articles are always helpful and concise. Regarding libel and slander, I have always been of the opinion that sadly the internet has spurned a new slew of anonymous bloggers and commenters. I also believe that you need not have a change of personality simply because the person you refer to is not standing in front of you.

    We must not, as human beings forget to always be kind to others. Hiding behind “but I am not the originator of this nasty rumour!” is definitely not acceptable. Free speech does not equal saying mean things about others. My motto personally is to “always be kind”. It cost nothing to be kind but the rewards you get are unmeasurable. I love your theme by the way and do have a nice day. Greetings from Australia.

    1. Hi Liz,
      When it comes to defamation internet has made it easier for those were already so inclined to act badly. I’m with you when it comes to kindness. The planet and everyone on it could benefit from daily mega-doses of kindness.
      Best wishes

  2. Dangers of spreading libel. Part of the problem with some folks is not understanding what criteria to use to evaluate how verifiable/truthful the information source maybe. Part of it is the author: if the person does not clearly identify themselves or the organization doesn’t offer up a mailing address, phone number or isn’t registered anywhere through a govn’t agency, then be a bit more careful.

    Of course, it gets complicated with personal blogs….

    If you are in doubt, say so in the blog post.

    1. Hi Jean,
      You’re right. Many bloggers don’t seem to know how to verify facts. Many don’t seem to know that any opinion that’s not based on facts is not credible. Your point on authorship is an important one as well. I’m with you when it comes to truth telling. Authenticity is what we seek when reading any blogger’s posts. “If you are in doubt, say so in the blog post.”

  3. Hello Timethief! A very useful post and I wil bookmark this. We have had lots of stuff in England going on regarding people retweeting libellous tweets, a recent case concerned a prominent figure being named (wrongly) with regard to a paedophile matter and his lawyers pursued each and everyone of the people who retweeted the tweet and I believe they were asked to make donations to charity by way of recompense.

    Libel is libel and we should all think carefully about what we read and what we publish. I sometimes think people don’t realise that tweets and facebook posts and blogs are publishing, they think that it is somehow private. I occasionally do an internet search on my blog name and last time I was very surprised to see that not only my posts are all there, but also all my comments scattered across the internet. I can re read long forgotten things I have written on sites and blogs. I feel it’s a bit like a silvery snail trail and it would be hard, in fact, impossible to eradicate.

    I will think very carefully indeed about what I say and if I am feeling angry or put out by something am wary before I comment, preferring to either not comment at all or go away and have a little think first. I have come across bloggers who say that their blogs are just their opinions and are yet quite rude and make quite unpleasant comments about people in their blogs and yet are surprised when people respond in a way that does not agree with them. I don’t return and read those bloggers as I think they are inconsistent and just a touch ignorant about how the world works.

    1. Hi there Joanna,
      I’m aware of the going’s on you refer to and like you I’m conscious of the fact that everything we say online will be there for years to come. I don’t waste any time when it comes to clicking out of blogs where is obvious the blogger has not lived up to the ethical standards of civil communication. There will always be those with dissenting opinions and if they can back their opinions with fact I’m willing to read what they have to say and carefully consider it. Constructive criticism is based on a foundation of goodwill, encourages growth and can increase the value of a blog. Destructive criticism is based on a foundation of ignorance and malice and brings the value of a blog down.

  4. My articles are generally non-threatening (I do go off on a tangent now and again, particularly when it comes to politics). I’d hate it if people invaded my site and abused me because they disagreed with something I said. I’ll let other people be brave about such things. (Although I get your point that it’s not always something a blogger has said that annoys the troll.) I’m going to check out what other interesting articles you have on offer.

      1. Thanks for your clear instructions, time Thief. I followed them and found a) that the url minus the http bit is already there as the primary blog and b) that I couldn’t add the http bit. It would not allow me to do so.
        http://marysomnibus.com/

        I agree that the only way to grow is through constructive criticism but being a coward and hating any sort of confrontation, I will usually shy away from pieces that might lead to abuse. I will, however, think about your suggestion. Maybe it’s time I sucked it up and spouted a few controversial opinions.

        PS. Time Thief, The comments bit is working again. I’ve been at this blogging for a year and a half, I think, and it’s the first time I’ve come across a problem. I was imagining hackers and viruses and other nasty unfixable things so I’m relieved it’s all over.

  5. In my time on WordPress, I have only had one instance of being raked across the coals for my views on a subject. An innocent remark was taken and blown up so that it looked like I condoned all sorts of torture on women because of the way they dressed. The commenter even likened my views to those of the Taliban.

    I was shocked and (being an old Irish Broad) hurt by these statements. I spent a “toss and turn” evening before I responded to these comments. When I did, I let the person know that I felt her comments bordered on being the work of a “cyber bully” and she responded it was her right under the freedom of speech code.

    I’m not sure the code includes calling a writer “creepy” but whatever. I handled this by blocking her comments from my post, and I moved on. Obviously, she wasn’t done with me. I got a pingback from one of her blogging buddies raking me over the coals again. This was a long article written by someone who never communicated with me at all.

    Again, I blocked her comments (love this ability, WordPress) so that my readers didn’t have to get involved or be exposed to this type of (can I say Crap) negative thinking.

    I don’t debate issues, I write my views, take em or leave em. I’m not always right and you don’t have to like my views. But, I don’t debate them..I leave that to other people much smarter than I.

    Just a note, the blogging buddy has about 4 followers so I don’t think their attack on me went very far and I’ve never heard back from them.

    Also, I’ve had followers who disagreed with me and told me so civilly and intelligently. I love them for that and respond with a “let’s agree to disagree” smiley.

    This was a great article and I’m so glad my friend Bastet reblogged it. I’m going to do the same since I feel it’s important that bloggers know what to do when attacked!

    1. Technology provides the ability to respond instantly to an online attack and it’s not in our best interest to do so. One doesn’t have to post any comments they receive and we all have the ability to delay approving a comment until we have formulated a response to it. The most important thing to do when attacked is to choose not to act for perhaps 48 – 72 hours and to understand that failure to engage is a powerful tool.

      I carefully consider what is expressed in every comment and the potential value it may hold for my audience and myself as a blogger before I approve and respond to each one.

  6. Thanks for the information. This is a topic that should be kept alive so that bloggers know what to do in cases of defamation and such.

    1. Hi there,
      It’s a difficult topic and hopefully none of use will be faced with having to report another blogger especially for libel. I’m glad you approve of both the theme change and the header. I think I may make another header using dark gray font instead of black.

  7. Thanks for this great post. Still warming up to social media I can’t tell you if I’ve developed trust yet , but I can say that our society has changed – rougher, tougher, more disrespect than respect for each other. Having said that, I’ve only had a positive experience with my blog and comments so far – that’s good news. Maybe it’s because I don’t stray into politics, religion, etc. but basically stick to art as I know it. Thanks timethief – really good topic.

    1. Thankfully the majority of us bloggers never go through this kind of crud. We meet great people and enjoy blogging. After all that should be what it’s all about.

  8. As always, your posts are very valuable and worth paying attention to. I have not suffered from this myself, but I know a couple of people who have, and it is terrible how it destroys their peace of mind.

  9. Tough one – It’s easy enough to delete a comment if it’s on a site that one controls – but if it’s somewhere else – Ouch, chilling. Don’t want to think about it.

    1. Imagine a business owner of a small business starting a successful business blog providing free information on her craft and a year later being mercilessly attacked by a ranting and raving fool (a competitor). That person defamed her in his “personal” blog. So she set up another website so as not to pollute her own business blog, and countered the erroneous information, lies about her, outrageous claims and threats with the facts, so the truth would appear in Google SERPS. A whole year devoted to that became a huge time and energy investment. In the end she triumphed but it was a hollow victory. She should never have been subjected to such abuse. The fact he was on his own server was what kept him going. If he would have been on our servers at WordPress.com or on Google’s Blogger servers, etc. they would have shut the blog down.

  10. Thanks for this post. It cleared up a few things I had been wandering about. I also liked the Rhino. I had a toy Rhino on a shelf in my last job to subtly remind myself not to take things personally or over react to other peoples stuff. It was my secret
    Rhino and it always made me smile. :)

  11. Interesting post TT. A couple of other points regarding civil defamation for people who aren’t up on it. One, that you can’t libel the dead – hence lots of vicious comments about British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on her death. Two, you don’t have to be the originator of the libel, republishing a defamatory statement whether you know it is defamatory or not is just as culpable.

    I think defamation is quite difficult for people to get their head around if they haven’t worked in the field, so for lay bloggers the golden rule should be watch what you write, and check your sources, ie don’t just repeat info from Wiki. People should be aware that even unintentional defamation can be claimed and that imputation can be defamatory as well.

    Which isn’t to put people off writing critical posts, eg I wrote one this week (on GMOs) and named a corporate giant. I don’t think it was libelous. I must admit I have read some blogs where people have used real names, and I have thought uf, I’m not sure I would have written that.

    I think the other issue, is around expressing opinions. If people want to slag off politicians, celebrities, big business, banks etc, it is a good idea to at least base any criticism on a few proven facts. Fair comment in the public interest may well be a defence but it needs to be valid.

    When I joined my first newspaper, they had an injunction against them as a firm was taking action for defamation. We had to keep our notebooks for ever and a day which probably explains why my homes are always overflowing with paperwork that I never throw out.

    1. @roughseasinthemed
      Thanks for raising such good points.

      You don’t have to be the originator of the libel, republishing a defamatory statement whether you know it is defamatory or not is just as culpable.

      Online information can be so easily accessed and then redistributed on the internet that it’s scary. We need to be aware of what’s being said about us, by whom and where it’s being said.
      http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2011/06/17/%E2%80%9Cme-on-the-web%E2%80%9D-for-reputation-management/

      Free speech is vital to a democratic society and technology today allows anyone to become a publisher. One would assume most are capable of fact checking and source checking before expressing an opinion. And, one would assume that they would never personally attack another out of malice but it has happened and will happen again.

      I have visited blogs and witnessed a journalistic style (<- using the term loosely) of unsubstantiated opinion and clicked out never to return again.

      Everything posted to a blog either adds value to it or subtracts value from it. Everything published on our blogs will be there for years to come even if we delete the blog.

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