Tara Jacobsen wrote this as part of a series about how to fight defamation by bullies on the Internet.
In this age of cancel culture, it is getting to be a common thing that people with an axe to grind aren't satisfied with normal behavior… their goal is bringing you down.
So today I am going to:
- Respond to my accuser emphatically and in writing, disputing her claims, including “receipts” (which are screen captures of what she wrote)
- Tell you my story so you can learn about how to spot a troll
- Show you how to find out more about them so you can go through legal channels to get them to remove the lies
- How to decide if you want to fight them head on
Disclaimer: This post is my opinion of what happened based upon my experience. Please do not contact anyone I have mentioned or tagged in this post.
- My Internet Troll Story
- The Difference Between “Fair Use” and “Defamation”
- What Should You Do If Someone Tries To Cancel You?
- Should You Fight Your Troll?
- Fighting Back Against Cancel Culture Wrapup
My Internet Troll Story
I found out about a blog post my troll wrote about me from my business partner… she sent me a message with a link to a blog post where the woman writing claimed that we had “copied” her product on Etsy.
She had written a 814 word blog post, on Christmas Eve, specifically stating that we had copied her Etsy listing and questioning our integrity. Here is a screen capture of what she said on her website:
She blatantly stated about us BY NAME that we had copied her product on Etsy. No “allegedly”, no “in my opinion”… simply stating that as a fact.
But it was her call to action to ask for other people to also malign our businesses, BY NAME, that pushed me over the edge and made me HAVE to write this post in case she is doing this to any other creators on the internet:
As such I knew immediately that we hadn't “copied” her work, instead we had purchased it with a commercial license from Creative Fabrica.
I haven't looked at the two forms side by side to try and see if the Creative Fabrica person copied it, but honestly, my troll's problem should have been with that person, rather than me.
As she took the post down as soon as I wrote to her, I might have let it be, but she will not remove two Pinterest pins she posted that also include my name:
And yes, I will be charging her with defamation in the state of Florida where I reside, but I wanted to write this post to help you if someone is lying about you on the internet.
The Difference Between “Fair Use” and “Defamation”
Just in case you don't know what these terms mean…
“In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement.” source Stanford Libraries
So when my troll said I was using fair use and transformative work to “copy” her form, she was very marginally right… although the basic premise of her post was wrong because we did not copy her Etsy product. And after talking with an attorney, a form cannot be copyrighted in the first place.
“Defamation is a statement that injures a third party's reputation. The tort of defamation includes both libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements).” source Cornell Law School
Here is more of what she wrote about me and Rebekah:
Just to state this out in the open, in over 20 years of business I have NEVER copied another person's work or even remotely tried to claim someone else's work as my own.
The value of my name is something I hold dear and will defend to my last breath.
What Should You Do If Someone Tries To Cancel You?
So first off, I will quote my attorney, don't do anything that will allow your troll to have any recourse against you.
As you can see, I am not naming my troll and have blurred out any identifying information about her in this post.
What Is Your Goal?
Before we go any further, let's talk about what the goal of your efforts probably needs to be.
For most of us, it will have to suffice to have them take down whatever they have said or written about you.
There is very little chance you will be able to receive any money from a defamation case in court. The cost to litigate it will probably be more than what you will want to spend.
I am super lucky that one of my dear friends is an attorney and can guide me through this, but unless you are able to show true monetary loss directly related to the defamation you probably won't win.
1. Ask Them Nicely To Take It Down
This one is both the easiest and the hardest, because you do have to try and ask them nicely to remove whatever they have posted.
I asked the troll to take her post down and she did, but so far has refused to remove the Pinterest posts so I will have to take her to court.
Try to contact them via their blog, Youtube channel, Facebook page, Instagram profile or anywhere else you can easily reach out.
Here is a message I sent to my troll… it didn't work, but I have record of it to show that I asked nicely.
2. Send Them A Cease and Desist Letter
The next thing you need to do is send a cease and desist letter or email (if you don't have their mailing address).
You can do a search on Google for “cease and desist” with the kind of harm they have done to you.
You will also need to be specific about what you want them to do and why you object to what they have posted.
Mine detailed the defamation and included a link to the place where we had purchased the template for the planner:
You do have to give them time to remove it, I am currently waiting out the 10 days until I can file my defamation case.
If you do have a friend or loved who is an attorney, reach out to them for help with filling out the cease and desist information.
3. Send The Cease and Desist To Connected Businesses
My troll used her blog and Pinterest to defame me so I have a number of different avenues I can take to try and get them removed.
Blog Host and Domain Provider
If your troll has posted defamatory information on their website, you can look up their blog host and domain using Godaddys Whois function.
It was super nice that the domain provider had their abuse email right there. I had to call A2Hosting to find out what their email address was (it was firstname.lastname@example.org … so if you can't find a contact, try sending your cease and desist to “abuse” at the hosting provider.)
A2Hosting replied that they couldn't find the post (she had taken in down) and that they might not be able to do anything anyways without more than a cease and desist. But we have lines of communication set up and I will send them the legal defamation documents once I have them so they have it on record in case she ever puts the post back up.
Update! A2Hosting confirmed that they would need a legal defamation ruling to take the content down. Here is their response:
“Defamation. Websites hosted on A2 Hosting servers are regulated by U.S. law. Pursuant to Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, A2 Hosting's policy is not to remove allegedly defamatory material from websites hosted on our servers unless the material has been found to be defamatory by a Federal or state court of the United States, as evidenced by a court order. (source email@example.com)
I sent Pinterest the cease and desist using their Reporting Form. They responded to me and said they would get my request to the proper channels.
Update: Here is the verbiage that Pinterest sent me… I have a feeling I will have to get a legal judgement for them too!
You can ask Google to remove the content through their Report Content on Google page.
Here is the verbiage about when they will remove a result:
A cease and desist letter is not enough for Google to remove a link in search results, they require the legal court documents.
You can request a video to be removed from the report inappropriate videos page.
4. Filing A Defamation Lawsuit
I KNOW, going to the courthouse and finding out how to file a lawsuit might be scary if you haven't done something like this before.
But it was super easy to find out how to do it myself (I will run it by a lawyer before I submit it!)
I simply searched “file defamation claim pasco county florida” and information about where to go popped right up.
I found the forms I need to fill out, where to get legal help from my county and how to file it using the e-portal.
I pleased to report that I don't HAVE to file a defamation lawsuit! Whoo whoo! Either the troll or Pinterest took down the pins.
Remember, this is probably the only goal you are going to accomplish… you will never get back the time and energy you have spent fighting them. That is what makes this so darn sad.
Should You Fight Your Troll?
Okay, this is a tough one! I am fighting my troll because my income could be compromised by what she did.
If someone does a search online and finds a post saying that I copied someone's work, they might not want to work with me on my original artwork, fearing that I might have copied it.
I am also good at the internet and am able to find out a lot of information about my troll in order to be able to try multiple avenues to get her to take it down legally.
But you need to take care.
If someone is attacking you online, they are probably someone who could become even more abusive if you fight them.
Think about it, a normal response to thinking someone copied your form is to request that Etsy take it down, not write an 814 word blog post on Christmas Eve.
If my business wouldn't be affected by her libel I would just ignore it and move on.
Fighting Back Against Cancel Culture Wrapup
Whew, that was a lot and I have even more to do to fight my troll. I really did not think I would ring in 2023 fighting to defend my reputation, but here we are.
I will be writing more about this topic, including my next post, How To Counteract Lies About You On The Internet (Reputation Management)