In today’s online world, anyone and everyone are vulnerable to potentially defamatory online statements and attacks. Internet defamation can carry grave consequences for affected individuals and businesses. Victims of internet defamation may even suffer depression or other mental and emotional effects. Businesses also face the risk of decreased profits, negative publicity and impairment of reputation.
Businesses and individuals must be prepared to promptly address issues when they arise. The law has its provisions to deal with such issues. However, to take full advantage of your legal options, you need to steps to ensure that your claims will have success. In the case of internet defamation claims, evidence preservation is crucial.
As an internet defamation attorney whose practice focuses exclusively on legal services for all types of malicious and illegal online attacks, including cases such as cyberbullying, online harassment, extortion and sextortion, content removal, and internet defamation. What I can tell you is that not all evidence preservation techniques meet legal evidentiary standards. If you wish to have evidence that is legally acceptable for purposes of a criminal complaint or a civil lawsuit, preservation must be done timely and correctly.
So what should do to preserve evidence in a way that ensures that it will be admissible at trial. For those looking for free options, I recommend using (1) Windows Snipping Tool (soon to become Snip & Sketch); (2) Windows Print button feature; (3) Google Chrome’s Print to PDF option; and (4) Mobile screenshots and pictures (if desperate).
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Always preserve the evidence
As an initial matter, when faced with internet defamation or vicious online attacks, it’s imperative to preserve all evidence. Many times, clients come to us asking us how they can get a negative comment, review, post, or video down. Of course, we can assist, but before removing the content, it is important to save a copy of it first. Otherwise, we will have no ability to later prove that what you claim happened, actually did happen and the damage that was caused. The first thing that matters when dealing with an attack is simple; preserve, preserve, preserve. Do this before making any efforts to remove the content.
Tools to preserve online evidence for free
The free options primarily involve taking a screenshot of the web page or a particular post by using the snipping tool (a Microsoft Windows screenshot utility included in Windows Vista and later) or simply clicking the CTRL+PrtScr button (prt sc) on a Windows PC. You can do that on a Mac. This option will enable you to capture a complete picture of the post or content in question, along with any accompanying comments. After that, save the page in a Word document or in PDF.
Make sure all screenshots either add or include the date and actual time stamped. This should not be difficult to do as computer-generated images have this information in the file’s metadata. In addition to taking screenshots, you can also save the whole webpage. For instance, if you use Google Chrome, you can save the website in question and timestamp it. To do this, click the CTRL+S buttons to save the webpage in the HTML version. The date and time will be stored in the saved file.
Remember that for evidence to be usable, it has to be clear, readable and well presented.
Having it that way makes it easier to request for the removal of the content and to pursue a legal case against the perpetrator. Well preserved evidence will also help lawyers to draft a complete and valid court order that online platforms will immediately respond to and act.
Premium and freemium online evidence preservation tools
If the online defamation issues you are facing are serious, paying for evidence preservation is typically a smart move. It leaves no room for error later that some technical evidentiary rule will prohibit evidence from being used at trial. I recommend (and personally use) both Page Vault and Visualping.
This is a web capture and software service which assists legal professionals in capturing and preserving highly sensitive online content for use in court. It is worth noting that Page Vault has an on-demand option which allows legal professionals to "request web content collections of any size or any frequency," and on a regular basis if needed. The service allows you to capture web content from all popular social media platforms. Their rates range from $99 to $299 per project. My firm currently uses its browser option, for which we pay a monthly rate to capture images, posts, and other online content for every client matter on the intake to the firm.
This is a popular web detection and monitoring tool for individuals and businesses needing hourly or daily screenshots of specific webpages and content to monitor any updates or changes to a website, blog or another type of post (even search results). The site automatically sends you alerts when something changes in those web pages or social media platforms with screen captures to show what updated. Visualping requires no registration. Go to the website, type in the website you want to track and provide an email they can send notifications to.
Since it is not always obvious what not to leave out when preserving a piece of evidence, we recommend the use of paid services as they are more effective.
What to do once you've preserved the evidence
The truth of the matter is, every single person is susceptible to defamation and malicious online attacks. It’s inevitable when living in the digital age. If you believe you’ve been defamed or are facing a malicious online attack, the first thing to do is to preserve the evidence. The second is that you should speak to an experienced legal professional or another online harassment expert to see how to best resolve the situation.