At Dozier Internet Law we are constantly addressing the problem of false and defamatory attacks against clients on blogs. I'll be lecturing on the issue of online defamation to Virginia lawyers this summer in a course sponsored by the Virginia Law Foundation, governed by representatives of the Virginia State Bar, the Virginia Bar Association, and seven of Virginia's law schools. One of the interesting things I plan on doing is offering an outline of a blogosphere attack, and I'll really try to get to the motivation and mentality of "attack bloggers". They are growing in numbers everyday. While the blogosphere denies the existence of the miscreants and scofflaws within their community, once in a while you actually hear one admit what we at Dozier Internet Law already know. Take a look at this posting from a popular business social networking site in response to a question about how to build a business with a blog:
"2). Pick an enemy and attack them hard. The point is to galvanize people. This WILL lead to traffic."
Controversies and outrageous claims draw attention. That means eyeballs. And that traffic leads to more business, or more revenue, for the blogger. It is not hard to see how this works, but it is unusual to get such a blatant admission from a prominent blog professional. "Attack bloggers" need to be reined in. We are having pretty good success dealing with these types without having to file lawsuits all the time, but when it comes to push, we usually will pull the trigger and sue the "attack blogger". It's not free speech to create outrageous lies and propagate them all over the web. So, if you get a communication from us, be it a letter, a copy of a lawsuit, or a telephone call, consider the consequences that are about to ensue. The great majority of you already get the picture and agree to our demands. Smart move.
And, for many of those intellectuals who relish this new toy called the web, and you are in high school or college, or have a life and a career and an employer, consider how it is going to look when, for the rest of your life, a lawsuit describing your misconduct in vivid and creative terms shows up on the first page of Google results for your name. Do you honestly think that a business is going to take a chance on hiring someone who has exhibited such poor judgment and inappropriate conduct? No. The business is going to move you to the bottom of the stack of applicants.
So, when you get a communication from us, understand the consequences. These lawsuits will show up on the front page of Google results under your name. SEO is not the sole province of bloggers, by the way. While your lawyers, particularly those involved with the public interest groups, use your case to gain attention and raise contributions, your reputation is being ruined forever. Your reputation as an employee, your reputation as a college applicant, your reputation as a job applicant, your reputation as a private person, your reputation as a husband, and your reputation as a father or mother. Maybe you won't be confronted with it, but the impact will likely be profound, from prospective employers passing your resume by to parents avoiding you at school functions. It will happen. I tell clients that the problem blogger isn't always found in the Dozier Internet Law Blogger Persona List because we don't consider the immature or unsophisticated individual as a "scofflaw" blogger.
But, for those with something to lose today or something to lose in the future...beware that the "poetic license" you thought you had will likely turn out to be a trap door into reputation hell.