“Beware Viktor Posudnevsky!” or How I Fought Online Defamation
A couple of months ago I became aware of a WordPress blog post that in no uncertain terms called me a blackmailer – someone who collects “varies critical information” on rich individuals and then charges “2K – 5K” depending on the level of “the client”. Here is a screenshot of the allegation:
Let me be clear about the facts: I have never blackmailed anybody, but – as they say – there is no smoke without fire. When I worked as a journalist I wrote some very critical articles about both individuals and businesses (some examples are on this blog).
I’ve no doubt that the blackmail allegation has been posted by someone who was the subject of one of my stories. There are a number of give-away signs as to why it is a fake post designed to inflict reputational damage:
- The blogger has not identified him/herself. There can be no credibility for the article when written anonymously.
- All links on the page circle back to the page itself.
- The owner/creator of the blog page has gone to considerable lengths to conceal his/her identity.
- My brother and a number of friends commented on the WordPress blog refuting all allegations, but their comments did not appear under the post and they got no reply from the author.
- I sent an email to the author as well by using the comments facility and got no word back.
- My solicitor sent a request for removal through with no reply.
It is a very amateur attempt at reputation damage – an anonymous post on a 1-page blog with no comments facility. Nevertheless if you Googled my name the post comes up fairly high in search results.
This kind of online defamation is common – you’ll find lots of examples on the internet. Competitors, trolls, ex-girlfriends (they’re the nastiest or so I heard) all think they can discredit you with a couple of fake posts, and a lot of them try.
When I first saw it I naturally wanted the thing gone, so here’s what I did – someone reading this might be going through the same and may find this information useful:
1) Contacted WordPress
After I unsuccessfully tried to contact the author of the post and got no reply, I reported the blog (a couple of my friends did as well) through WordPress’s complaints form:
After two or three weeks all of us got this automated reply:
2) Contacted lawyers
I contacted a Dublin law firm called Abacus Legal and asked them for advice. Martin Moloney, the solicitor, was very nice and sympathetic, however he wasn’t very optimistic. He informed me that had the content been posted on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ it would have been much easier to take down since all these companies have offices in Ireland. WordPress is based in the US and it won’t budge without a US court order.
Martin contacted his colleagues in the States to find out how much a court action would cost me – the answer was I’d need around $2500 just for a retainer… I wasn’t prepared to spend this much on an irrelevant piece of online slur.
3) Contacted Google
I figured that since we can’t get the defamatory post off WordPress we can at least try the “right to forget” mechanism with Google to get it removed, so it doesn’t come up when someone searches my name. So I filled out the famous “Right to be forgotten” form… and I never heard back.
I then asked Martin Moloney, the solicitor, to fill it out and – presto! – in a week or so Google responded with this automated email:
4) Contacted Google again
Google have another – much less known – form for reporting defamation:
(you can get to it by using this Troubleshooter: https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905)
Martin has filled the form out for me as his client and we’re still waiting for the Search giant’s reaction.
5) Wrote the piece you’re reading now to tell my side of the story
So, as much as I hate to admit it, at the moment the post is still there. I am not overly concerned with it, it is simply a ham-fisted online assault with no truth and no-one brave enough to stand over it. I know all sensible people will see it for what it is.
And if you, the reader, have any advice for me (or even a word of encouragement) please get in touch by leaving a comment!
If you find yourself faced with online defamation here are some good stories that may come in handy: