The letter was published in the Financial Times on 4th October 2010 - Read the article
While Michael Skapinker’s piece (“Head off web insults before they escalate”, Comment, September 28) is very well balanced overall, it does not perhaps fully illustrate the seriousness of some of the issues we are dealing with.
There are many decent, reputable businesses out there that are being grievously attacked by unknown posters on sites. They don’t know who these people are and often, when they are small businesses in particular, their livelihood is threatened – they can lose everything.
It takes only a few fake, anonymous reviews to alter the whole online profile of a small business. And because they are fake, there is no chance of addressing the situation, as Mr Skapinker suggests.
We have just taken on a case where a businessman has been accused of both theft and child abuse on an online feedback site. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, to be protected at all costs – but so is good reputation, and improvements have to be made to stop serious, false allegations being enabled and supported in the way they are currently.
Brook Barn is only the tip of the iceberg, and TripAdvisor initially refused to remove the completely unfounded accusation of racism, stating that the post met its guidelines. There are thousands more – and worse examples.
If David Beckham has the right to clear his name with legal proceedings over an alleged sex scandal, then everyone else has a right to such protection too.