Online Defamation and Online Dispute Resolution

Online defamation refers to lowering the image of any person including an organization through World Wide Web.  There are many ways by which negative comments and deliberate bad reviews in the online platform which forms the basis of online defamation. These include reviews, social media, websites initiated for this purpose, forums and all the other platforms where public can view such comments or opinions to frame their own.
Today businesses and mainly online businesses are threatened with the weapon of online defamation through social media and other modes that can bring adverse opinion against the brand and the organization.
Expectations of the customers today are high due to high competition in the online business and it is a corresponding duty of such businesses to provide the same. However, it is an undeniable fact that not every individual can be satisfied and the best of customer support may fail due to lack of consensus from inception. In such cases, the provider of the goods or services has to be approached before moving to the next step. When the issue cannot be resolved company, the  aggrieved party can approach the proper authority to get the grievance redressed . Alternatively, the parties can opt for alternative dispute resolution in India or online dispute resolution in case of e-commerce business and avoid customer dissatisfaction. The need and the importance of setting up an online dispute resolution in India can be viewed here.

Online defamation has been increasing and has become uncontrollable to the extent that there exist few websites which brings out the name of the organization based on individual experience and opinion. Defaming a person, be it company or an individual is an offence under the law. However there are certain exception to the rule as facts, Public Interest etc. and is also protected by the right to freedom of speech and expression.  On the other hand, it defames the person (which is an offence) and affects the business of a person. Not going in detail with regard to the legal provisions, types of defamation, exemptions etc. This will be dealt in a separate post.
It is pertinent to mention that defaming a person or an institution may become costly in the legal battle. The individual making such remarks can be sued for such statements and compensation can be demanded for the same. The compensation for defaming will be based on facts and circumstances of each case. The person or the institution who is affected by such defamation or online defamation can proceed against the person making such defamatory statement(s).
It would be prudent on the part of the website to mention the same in the terms and conditions of the website and to specify the consequences of defamation taking into account the possibility of its happening . However, mere statement will not suffice the reasonable expectations of the customer and there right to get their disputes resolved. The disputes can be resolved in two different ways
  1. Litigation
  2. Alternative Dispute Resolution
Litigation can be time consuming and expensive way to resolve any dispute and where the jurisdiction would become the main dispute . To the contrary, the alternative dispute resolution can bring about convenient, mutual beneficial settlement and can also facilitate Win-Win situation for both the parties.
The website can provide for an arbitration clause (or specify that all dispute would be resolved through alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration, mediation and conciliation) in the “Terms and conditions” of the website. Most importantly, in online transaction, the users can be located anywhere and so resolving the disputes online will bring ease to the process. This reasonably restricts the users of the website to approach court or apply any lower means of resolving their disputes.