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We are often asked, by clients and colleagues, about our position on Freedom of Speech and whether we support the following issues:
Our answer follows.
Freedom of Speech is and should be the right of everyone, especially those who consume products and services. The problem is in determining the point at which we draw a line in the sand that says “This isn’t free speech, this is defamatory and damaging to someone’s livelihood”.
In today’s technologically driven [or ruled] society, the power of Free Speech is often abused by those who are aggrieved or believe they are aggrieved. Emotion is most frequently the fuel that powers consumers to speak out, which can often obscure and distort the truth of the matter.
Consumers now have more power than ever, with thousands of dedicated review sites, forum threads, Social Media platforms and free blogging portals; all of which are free to join and simple to use. These sites are often designed to lure consumers for insights into their behavioural patterns, likes/dislikes and reviews for revenue purposes.
Our position on consumer feedback and reviews is that truth MUST be present. Truth in a review can often illuminate issues of inefficiency and poor customer service protocols within the business subject to review. Thus, truthful reviews can in turn increase business effectiveness, competitiveness and economic position – IF the issue at hand is treated within the business.
In the absence of truth, Internet Removals believes that the removal of such content is a justified and moral act. False reviews are often the major cause of insolvent SME’s and can cause significant financial damage. Statistics reflect that 88% of Consumers trust online reviews as if they were a recommendation from friends or family.
In regards to legislative reform to the Uniform Defamation Laws, we cannot directly comment on the legislation itself. We can, however, express our opinion that while Australia’s Defamation Laws are more protective than most other countries, there is a long way to go in catching up to Online Defamation and the realm of legislating internet use.
Ultimately, while we cannot stop free expression, we can offer the following piece of advice. Act as if you were a small business owner, reviewing your own business. Act according to the impact your review would carry and consider the damage, personally and financially, your review could cause.
At Internet Removals, we encourage Freedom of TRUTHFUL Speech. We condemn false allegations, cyberstalking, internet defamation, business sabotage, online harassment and abuse of journalistic power.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “I believe in a strong executive; I believe in power, but I believe that responsibility should go with power”.