The spreading of false and discrediting information about a private citizen, organization, or a public person is one of the simplest and most common cybercrimes out there today. In fact, nothing is easier than to log in to a social network under a false name and spread false information about a business competitor, such as that his company is a financial pyramid and is cheating honest people.
Such intangible values as personal dignity, honor, and business reputation are protected by Russian law. There are certain remedies available in accordance with Russian legislation, but it is necessary to know how to properly use them.
Legal Remedies for Internet Defamation Available Under Russian Law
Article 152 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation regulates the rights of persons about whom discrediting information was spread in mass media and on the Internet. Under the law, the person or company suffering from defamation may demand:
- Removal of negative information immediately or destruction of a physical media
- Public refutation of the information compromising its business reputation
- Compensation of losses and of moral damage caused by such defamation
At the same time, when making decisions on defamation cases, Russian courts teeter on the edge between two provisions of the Constitution, which are the right to protect one’s honor and good name (Article 23) on the one hand, and the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of ideas, speech, and art (Article 29) on the other hand. The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
An analysis of judgments in cases of the protection of a business’s reputation considered by Russian commercial courts in the year 2014 showed that, out of 878 cases heard by courts of first instance, the claims were fully and/or partially satisfied in not more than one third of all cases. This year, the situation has not changed significantly as it relates to defamation on social networks and on public websites.
Just Because a Comment Is Negative, Doesn’t Mean It’s Illegal
Not every negative statement on the Internet may be considered illegal spreading of discrediting information. In making a decision on submission of such actions to jurisdiction, judges verify the availability of the following conditions:
- The fact of spreading of information about the applicant by the defendant
- The character of information tarnishing the plaintiff
- Inconsistency of this information with reality
All three of these conditions must be met in order for the case to be considered for defamation. The burden of proof for the first two conditions lies with the plaintiff while the defendant must prove the third.
Proving That Discrediting Information Has Been Spread
How do you prove the fact that discrediting information about you has been widely spread? The definition of “spreading” is publication of information in mass media or on the Internet, which is equal to mass media in the eyes of the law. In order to file a claim in court, you must have written or printed evidence of the defaming statement. If your reputation or that of your business has been threatened online, you will need to conduct a notarial website inspection protocol and obtain certified screenshots.
Another important and challenging aspect of these cases is that the defendant must be identifiable as a real person. Only the most respected websites require proper user verification; in most cases, behind the mask of Jane Doe, there is another person. According to the explanation from the Russian Supreme Court, proper defendants in lawsuits for business reputation protection are the authors of the discrediting false information, as well as persons spreading this information.
It is important to keep in mind that, according to the law, the following categories are considered separately:
- Discrediting information
- Degrading treatment
- Freely expressed opinions
The last two categories are not eligible for legal action.
Our Russian Attorneys Can Prepare Your Internet Defamation Case
As you can see, business reputation defamation cases are highly complicated since the burden of proof mainly lies on the plaintiff. Such claims require thorough preparation as well as careful gathering of proper written evidence to support the claim. The business attorneys at Jus Privatum are experienced in this area of the law and can help you protect your reputation and save your business.