A pioneer in the online consumer review niche, Ripoff Report (“ROR”) dates all the way back to the age of free AOL discs—1999.
Anybody with an email address can create an ROR account and publish posts. As a result, and as you might imagine, some Ripoff Report posts are fair and accurate while others are not.
When it comes to your businesses reputation, ROR (and other online reviews, for that matter) can greatly impact the way potential customers view your business.
Why Does Ripoff Report Have A Bad Reputation Amongst Some Business Owners?
Segments of the business community consider Ripoff Report public enemy #1. The root of the discord? RipoffReport.com’s longstanding policy regarding the removal of defamatory content from its site. Traditionally, the site maintained a hard-nosed stance: it doesn’t remove anything—even libelous material.
However, in recent months, Ripoff Report executives have tweaked their position on the issue, which we’ll unpack below.
Related Article: When Bad Reviews Hit: Should You Call Legal or PR?
Why Is It Legal For Ripoff Report To Keep Defamatory Posts Published?
You may be thinking: “How are websites legally allowed to keep defamatory information published?”
The answer: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“Section 230”).
Codified at 47 U.S.C. § 230, Section 230 is the law that confers third-party defamation immunity on ISPs, Web hosts and interactive computer services.
In non-legal terms, Section 230 prevents the blaming of website operators, domain registrars and hosts for users’ defamatory actions. Section 230 is the reason Facebook isn’t sued every time someone posts a libelous comment on a timeline or via the company’s commenting mechanism.
Bottom line: If you want to file a libel claim over an ROR user post or comment, you must sue the person who made the statement(s), not the companies that facilitated the publishing process (website platform, hosts, registrars, et cetera). And no, you can’t sue Google because its search algorithm includes snippets from websites.
How does Ripoff Report’s Corporate Advocacy Program Work?
Ripoff Report maintains an in-house dispute resolution program (separate and apart from its VIP arbitration Program) that may be helpful to some businesses. Knighted the “Corporate Advocacy Business Remediation and Customer Satisfaction Program,” the system gives businesses an opportunity to admit mistakes and make contractual commitments “to change.”
In exchange, Ripoff Report may edit and redact portions of participants’ damaging posts. Plus, companies that enroll in Ripoff Report’s advocacy program are alerted of potentially injurious reviews before they go live. If the business can craft a mollifying solution—and sufficient mea culpa—the bad report never posts.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Posting A Response On Ripoff Report?
Business owners and marketers can add responses to Ripoff Report posts, for free. Simply create an account and start typing.
But responding isn’t always the best tact—even if you are a paragon of equanimity in responding to your detractor. Why? Well, two reasons stand out:
- By making an account, you’re agreeing to certain arbitration rules, established by Ripoff Report, which may or may not benefit you. Speak to an online defamation lawyer about the specifics of your case to determine if posting a response somehow jeopardizes your chance at an alternative, more effective remedy.
- Sometimes, walking away from difficult clients is analogous to slowly backing away from a grizzly bear: it’s is the wisest move. Sure, disparaging posts aren’t good, but, metaphorically speaking, if it’s a pin-sized smudge on an otherwise flawless canvas, people may not even notice. That, or people will realize you caught yourself an unreasonable client (every entrepreneur has dealt with challenging clients) and pay it no mind.
- Google’s algorithm craves “fresh news” and features the most recent content at the top of search result pages. So, when you respond to a post on Ripoff Report, Google sees the new content, thinks “fresh,” and then punts the page to the top of the search results.
Is It Possible To Get Defamatory Posts Redacted On Ripoff Report?
Ripoff Report is notoriously strict about not removing posts, but recently, the consumer review website announced a slight change of policy. Though site operators intend to maintain their austere deletion dogma, they’ve voluntarily decided to honor certain court orders that compel parties to remove defamatory material. But instead of removing the posts, it appears from early examples that Ripoff Report will redact offending posts.
Clarification: Ripoff Report will not honor every court order. That said, due to the policy change, there is more opportunity to mitigate the impact of false and defamatory ripoffreport.com content.
Is It Possible To Get Defamatory Ripoff Report Pages De-Indexed From Search Engines?
Another popular method for dealing with damaging posts is de-indexing. Instead of appealing directly to gripe sites, some people petition search engines, like Google.
Though exceptions always abound, search engines are generally cooperative when it comes to court orders. As such, if a business can obtain a favorable ruling from a judge, search engines may remove or redact the offending page in their respective industries. When a webpage is removed from a search engine’s directory, the probability of finding it plummets, as just over 90 percent of adults use search engines to navigate the Internet. Following, if a search engine removes a page from its index, the likelihood of potential client finding it diminishes nine-fold.
Granted, a bad Ripoff Report post can be damaging, but effective remedies are at your disposal. If you’re attacked, don’t panic—just get to work on getting a court order.