The first question that must be answered in the aftermath of a defamation attack is whether or not to respond at all. Like encapsulated cancers or asbestos lining old buildings, sometimes it is best to leave an ugly post alone.

The reason, of course, is the Streisand Effect – the way in which an effort to repress something online winds up propagating it. Don’t make matters worse by chatting online about or causing others to link to the offending site(s), which will only raise its prominence.

The first and biggest questions is whether to ignore, appease or confront your reputation assassin.

  • In deciding whether or not to post a rebuttal, ask yourself if the offending material is likely to have real-world negative consequences. Will it cost you that new job, a client, or a promotion?
  • Second, who has seen it? Is the site generating enough traffic to the offending content? It the negative content likely to be seen by your cohorts? If the answer to these question is no, then decide the safer play: To keep a close eye on the attack or to try to nip it in the bud?
  • Are you able to understand who is attacking you. Can you identify the attacker, or can you correlate his user name with a website or blog?
  • Does the attack appear organic, going viral over community anger over your perceived misdeeds, or cruel humor at your expense? Or do you see the repetition of keywords and text that indicates that you may be the victim of deliberate keyword stuffing?

If you do not recognize the attacker, on a rather anonymous platform, conveniently endorsing half-baked statements on Freedom of Expression, it’s absolute suicide to post a rebuttal there. It cannot be stressed enough how much trouble a rebuttal, even with the best of intentions and facts, can tag you for someone who is very concerned, and someone who will always be willing to spend top dollar to protect it’s reputation.

That’s your cue.

Nearly every Reputation Management services, consultant, book and tutorial suggests otherwise. PR firms usually advice their clients to confront their attackers, considering this as protocol. They’re not being brave here, rather stupid.

Once a rebuttal is posted, you are identified as someone as a target. An easy target. To the web-extortionists, you are someone who is easily rattled, enough to be forced into a deal where money is exchanged for removal of the negative content. Once you do that, you’ll suddenly see multiple ‘anonymous’ content cropping up on any of these dozens of web-extortion websites (mostly fly-by-night complaint site operators, or personal dirt websites), each hoping to prey on your ‘urgent need’ to have the content removed. It’s a never-ending process. It’s somewhere between a full-fledged extortion, and a racket.

Stay away. Never post a rebuttal. No matter how tempting. 

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