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The Internet is, by and large, the place where most individuals spend a large part of their day.
Recent surveys have found that, on average, Canadians spend around six hours per day using the internet. Given how much time we spend using the Internet, it is not surprising that many have taken to using it to air their grievances and post defamatory and harassing conduct about others.
This kind of defamatory content can often be found on the usual social media platforms, but there are also certain kinds of problematic websites which exist for the express purpose of publishing defamatory content about innocent individuals. Search engines then index the content from these websites, and when someone googles the name of an individual, they discover problematic, salacious, and defamatory statements or images posted about that person on these websites. Similarly, false and defamatory reviews are often posted about businesses for no reason other than to harass, defame, and to cause those businesses to lose customers, reputation, and respect.
When it comes to removing this kind of defamatory content from the internet, there are generally three ways to go about it:
- Request the poster to remove the content voluntarily. If they comply, no further lawsuit or other court process is required. However, as you can imagine, the individuals that post defamatory content of this nature are often difficult to find (as they often post content anonymously) or simply refuse to comply with any requests to remove it.
- Obtain a court order. The individual that posted the content or the website hosting the content can generally be required to comply with a court order requiring the content be removed. However, that will usually require a finding that the content is defamatory, which requires the commencement of a lawsuit. This can be a complex process for the uninitiated, given that there are often questions as to the appropriate jurisdiction to commence a lawsuit for defamatory content posted on the internet.
- Have the website remove the content. Certain websites will remove defamatory content upon request; however, in the vast majority of cases, they will only remove content that infringes on copyright or other intellectual property rights.
If you have had the unfortunate experience of finding defamatory content posted about yourself online and are looking for someone to explain your options or get the content taken down, please contact the writer or another member of our Media & Defamation Law team.