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Attorney Paul Sternberg Discusses the Time Sensitivity of Online Defamation Cases
Paul Sternberg is seasoned in defamation law and provides insight to the time-sensitive nature of online defamation cases for readers below.
RESTAURANT SERVES DOG FOOD!!!!
No, not really, but an anonymous poster did place this comment on Yelp devastating the restaurant’s business. Or, how about the woman who had an affair with a married man and wound up with three pages of unimaginable comments about her and her business placed by his wife. What about bullying in school, not the old fashion kind but on the internet. All real cases.
When you’re talking about scientific knowledge, pressing news or just plain gossip, the internet is a useful resource that can disseminate content to millions as quickly as people can click their mice. However, this same technology can be used to spread defamatory attacks in no time and make it extremely difficult to put a lid on the problem.
Having worked on online defamation cases for years, I’ve learned that if there’s something my clients should understand off the bat, it’s that timing is everything. Responding to defamatory attacks quickly is a general rule of thumb, but online defamation is especially tricky because of the intrinsic nature of the internet.
When people post online––whether through forum comments, social media posts, blogs, etc.––that content can be shared at a rapid speed with countless individuals through interconnected computer systems. This is what the internet was built to do: share information at lightning speed with people around the world.
Some online databases even store full content from web pages to keep a snapshot of the internet in the past. This is another reason online defamation cases can be extremely problematic since information can be spread to many web pages and then stored in databases where they may exist indefinitely.
Another reason timing in an online defamation case is so critical is due to a set of laws called the statute of limitations. Each state has their own set, and they ultimately determine the timeframe that victims of defamation attacks (among other legal issues) can legally address their case in court. No matter the details of your case, if you miss the deadline set down by your state then your opponent can request the court to dismiss any charges, which they’re likely to do. There are rare exceptions to these rules, but you should never rely on them.
The surest way to avoid the hassle of hunting down numerous web pages and trying to wrangle down countless views, comments, and shares is to address the problem the instant you discover it. This may mean sending out cease and desist letters or contacting the attacker directly to request the page or comment be removed. Always, though, you should partner up and consult with a lawyer practiced in defamation law as soon as you can.
I’ve put together a few comprehensive resources to help prepare people facing online defamation attacks, namely informative eBooks and presentations. In them, I help my clients understand the freedom of speech, how it can be violated, what constitutes as online defamation, the orderly process for addressing attacks, and more.
Internet defamation is not like other forms of defamation; victims of an attack must act quickly to deter the situation from spreading beyond their reach and vastly increasing the work required to resolve issues. However, with a little prudence and understanding, people can take control of their defamation cases and prevent attacks in the future.
Paul M. Sternberg is in private practice at his own Houston, Texas law firm since 2001. He concentrates his practice in the areas of internet defamation law. Mr. Sternberg is a graduate a 1996 graduate from South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas where he was on the Dean’s Honor Roll. Mr. Sternberg is the author of THE GUIDE TO INTERNET DEFAMATION AND WEBSITE REMOVAL. He has 10 years of experience on representing clients who have been the victims of defamatory cyber-attacks. Mr. Sternberg has developed a reliable blueprint in securing positive solutions in most cases. He has shared his professional knowledge with FOX NEWS and many other media outlets to discuss internet defamation. He is a frequent speaker to attorneys and community groups. He may be reached at www.TheDefamationAttorney.com or his office at 713-789-8120.