Slander and Small Businesses
Slander, also called defamation, is any statement that aims at harming your business with false accusations. You should not necessarily worry about every single grumpy person who makes a little comment, but when someone is actively trying to spread negative information about your organization to do it and you harm, then you have a problem. Slandering a business, legally speaking, is no different than slandering an individual. If someone is going around slandering your business, you have the ability to take civil action and sue that individual for damages.
While the terms “slander” and “defamation” are frequently used as synonyms, they are not actually the same thing. Slander falls under the category of defamation, but “defamation” can also mean other things. For example, libel (when someone writes a negative statement about you or your business instead of saying it out loud) is another form of defamation. If you are suing as a victim of slander there is also a good chance you can sue for libel. These days many people who are angry at a business, for whatever reason, tend to leave negative reviews online. A person who is badgering your personal website might not be a big deal; you can remove their negative feedback or even block that individual’s IP address to stop them from accessing your website. There is even some control over this on some social media platforms, like Facebook, where you will have at least some degree of control over the page where posts are being made. For some other social media websites, or different types of websites where your business can be reviewed, you will not have the ability to block negative, spamming posts or to take those posts down. While you do not have to prove damages for libel like you do for slander, having an online post as evidence will certainly help you. In case whoever you are suing tries to remove the posts they made themselves, it is a good idea to take screenshots of the offensive comments and to include timestamps on the pictures.
When you are attempting to prove damages for slander you do not need to show evidence of actual, tangible harm like a loss in business and/or profits as a result of the negative comments. Any negative statement that is proven to be false is automatically assumed to be harmful to the target business. Businesses being attacked by slander can file a civil action suit in a local court and request attorney’s fees and damages. You can also request a restraining order or injunctive relief against the person causing the slander if the act of slander is ongoing in order to stop that individual from causing further defamation against the business.
A business should also be prepared for individuals who attempt to sue them for slander. The legal requirements of a business slandering a person are a bit different from a person slandering a business. If a person is enacting a civil action suit against a business they must prove that the action committed by the business did them harm. Someone who just has their feelings hurt cannot successfully sue whereas someone who had harm to their own business and/or reputation could. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, winning a slander lawsuit is pretty difficult. Requiring evidence that the slander happened is almost impossible without an audio recording or witnesses. Additionally, civil suits are public record and could potentially bring more negative attention to your business than just ignoring the slander. The weakness of slander is that it is, by definition, false information. If the slanderer cannot actually prove their statement they will have a very hard time winning the case.