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Data collected by Statista in 2022 suggested that there were 57.6 million active social media users across the UK, a huge penetration rate of 84.3% of our population, a staggering number and the 22nd highest penetration rate globally.

Social media dominates our everyday existence. We shop, we bank, we run our businesses, we fall in love and fall apart online, and most of the time it benefits our lives by making it easy for us to connect, stay in touch and keep up-to-date at the touch of a button.

Businesses can thrive on the power of social media. If used correctly they can reach millions of potential customers quickly and at relatively low cost, however there is, of course, a downside. Defamation.

The defamation dark side

“I’m going to go to social media to complain” – the words most business dread. It’s incredibly easy to head to Trustpilot or TripAdvisor to post a review, good or bad, influencing the buying behaviours of future customers. But what if that review is inaccurate, exaggerated or simply made up?

That’s defamation. Defamation is when someone makes a false comment or statement about someone else to a third-party that’s likely to harm their reputation or character.

For businesses, a negative review, especially if demonstrably untrue can cause untold damage to their reputation, a loss in income, even closure in severe cases. One study conducted in 2021 found that 39% of businesses had been directly affected by fake reviews on platforms in the previous year.  68% of businesses were worried about fake reviews, with 84% of managers stating that online reviews are critical to the financial and reputational state of the business.

Reviewing the reviews

There have been numerous stories of small businesses battling to regain business after finding themselves on the wrong end of a fake review, and although most social media platforms allow users to report false and defamatory information for review and renewal, this can sometimes take a long time.

Information is notoriously difficult to erase from the internet, even if the platform responds in a timely manner and in some cases, the more effort a person goes to remove or conceal information, the more it’s spread, this is referred to as the Streisand Effect.

Google is a particularly tricky one to navigate, as a third-party site, businesses can’t control the reviews posted there, they need to rely on Google to ‘review the review’ by flagging it as potentially fake. This can take days to complete, and meanwhile the false review is sitting in plain sight.

There is recourse though, and in such cases, a defamation claim may be the best course of action. Pursuing this type of claim allows a person to obtain a legal declaration that comments made on social media are false and to prevent the continued spread of this defamatory information.

Case study

The policyholder was a self-employed painter and decorator with a business page on Facebook. The policyholder started a new job for an existing customer by stripping wallpaper from one wall; the policyholder was scheduled to go back to finish the job, but due to circumstances had to move the appointment two days ahead of the original date.

The customer became very abusive and claimed that the policyholder had left their home in a messy state, which was untrue as they would never leave a customers’ home in an untidy way.

The customer then started a smear campaign towards the policyholder on Facebook, with allegations of poor customer services, poor quality of work. The negative comments resulted in the policyholder losing further business due to customers cancelling following the defamatory comments.

The policyholder contacted Arc Legal Group and our recommended solicitors were instructed to draft and send cease and desist letters to both the customer and Facebook requesting removal of the defamatory comments.

The defamatory comments were removed.

It can be difficult to police fake reviews, determined users can mask their identity to leave compelling reviews for businesses, either because of a genuinely poor experience, a grudge against that business, or to undermine a competitor, but with the right legal support, there are measures that you can take to avoid the costly fallout from such a review.

Our Family, Commercial and Affinity Groups Legal Expenses Insurance provides our customers with practical legal advice and support if defamatory comments have been made.

Legal advice and assistance is also available through these policies on a wide range of other home, personal and commercial legal issues including employment, contract, property, and will cover the cost of litigation if required.

If you require any further information in relation to this update, or details of our products and services, please contact your Corporate Relations Manager or email

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