There will be no consequences? It might be time to think again. Citizen Journalists have in the main been Anonymous, with little worry about recourse for their online postings.
Two academics recently took one of their peers to court after he’d published a disparaging review of one of their books on one of the internet’s most popular websites, Amazon.com. This resulted in him having to pay undisclosed, but substantial libel damages.
So what should online critics be wary of? The story behind this particularly ground-breaking case should put all would-be online reviewers on their guard. We might previously have believed that the apparent anonymity of the web would shield us from any form of legal recourse. However, this legal battle suggests that it is definitely time to think again.
Nobody reads or cares about online reviews
How wrong could you be? Online opinion is popular and growing, with real influence within the world of business, arts and entertainment. And book publishers are getting more and more concerned about negative reviews. They are watching you.
Don’t believe your reputation will protect you
The defendant in this particular case was a respected British historian and a former Cambridge University lecturer.
There are safer ways to take on your rivals
Airing your grievances on a public, worldwide platform is perhaps not the best way to share your opinions with your enemies: if what you have to say is deemed to be defamatory you’re adding fuel to the fire and encouraging a reaction… which may result in a court battle instead a simple exchange of views on a website.
Think that publishing your review anonymously will shield you?
Think again. Most readers of online reviews can easily identify one written out of spite or with an ulterior motive. Most reviews are rational and objective, so a fake, vindictive review will stand out from the crowd.
Don’t deny the charges
It was this step that prompted the two protagonists involved in this case to launch their legal action.
Their action is being deemed to be fairly extreme by media commentators, but this is no means an unremarkable case. So, budding bloggers, opinionated tweeters and online guerrilla critics… you have been warned. If your enemies have pockets deep enough to pay for a legal action they will come after you.