Legal experts are warning online users to be careful what they post about businesses because if it is not true you could end up in legal trouble.
Online reviews are growing in popularity as people turn to social media Web sites like Facebook, Yelp and Twitter to share their experiences at various businesses.
One post on Yelp described a restaurant in Hermitage as “vile.” It went on to describe unsanitary conditions in the restrooms.
Attorney Alex Little with Bone McAllester Norton said negative posts like that can leave the person who posted it vulnerable to a lawsuit if it includes false statements.
“You have freedom of speech and can say what you want to say,” Little said. “But if you post something that is not the truth or even shade it in a dishonest way, that can constitute defamation.”
He explained that with social media, people who would once have limited influence on public opinion of a business have a much larger reach.
“Your opinions have the ability to reach a lot more people than ever before because of Facebook, Twitter and social media,” he said. “So if you have one bad experience that could reach one thousand people or ten thousand people very easily.”
He continued, “I think it is important to recognize that and know what you share with friends may be shared much more widely.”
In Jackson, Mississippi a Facebook page and GoFundme Web page that were created for Victoria Wilcher have been taken down.
Kentucky Fried Chicken faced nationwide backlash after the three-year-old’s grandmother said the girl was asked to leave the fast food chain by a manager who said the little girl’s facial scars were bothering other customers.
The girl survived a pit bull mauling and her face was badly injured.
An internal investigation of KFC found no evidence the event ever happened. Wilcher’s grandmother, however, is standing behind her account.
Back in September, a Franklin Red Lobster waitress posted a picture of a customer receipt with a racial slur written on it in the space designated for a tip.
The picture went viral and the waitress eventually received $10,000 raised through the Internet.
But now the customer, whose name was shown on the receipt, is suing her and Red Lobster because he said he never wrote the slur on the receipt.
At Ace Hardware in Donelson, social media has helped boost business.
“It has been an incredible resource for us,” he said. “From an exposure perspective it is basically free advertising as long as you are crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.”
Avery told News 2 he stresses to his staff the power of social media and how quickly a negative review can be uploaded.
“If you look at the moniker for [Ace Hardware], we are the helpful place,” he said. “As long as we are able to prove that, day in and day out, we are comfortable with our social media presence.”
Little said for businesses that have negative postings put online the best defense a lot of times is to have even more positive comments posted from satisfied customers.