Negative Content: Why you should worry about Free Speech


Content is king but what is it? Technically speaking we derive no differentiation from negative or positive content as long as someone reads it. This is a dangerous precedence as content creators might be inclined to use negative content to bait eyeballs. Boston University’s Krystal Blanco at Boston University developed a mathematical model of how rumors are spread. In this model, individuals are either ignorants, spreaders, or stiflers of information. In addition to these categories, Blanco and co introduce a category of quarantined users who are unable to contact other members of the population and so are unable to spread their messages. This is also how Net censorship is taking place in some countries though not with the use of a mathematical formula but one that is based on keywords.

There is no Such Thing As Free Speech

I have often pointed this out to people who ask me about what makes for popular content. Being popular can be both a negative and positive experience. Positive if you are going to get loads of traffic to your post, negative if you happen to give a spiel on a competitor or as an avid blogger giving a heartfelt review of what one has experienced.

Caroline Doudet from France wrote a review of Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant in Cap-Ferret, France in August of 2013 on her blog Les Chroniques Culturelles.

She got sued by the restaurant for affecting the business.

While the court only asked Doudet to alter the headline of the article, she chose to delete it entirely following the court proceedings — only after, though, she was asked to pay a 1500 Euro fine and an additional 1000 Euro fee to cover the legal fees of the case. “If bloggers do not have the freedom to write negative reviews, positive reviews make no sense either.” Doudet’s case is the first in which an unpaid, nonprofessional blogger has been fined for publishing a less-than-positive post on a restaurant.

Taking a Cue from the Movie “The Chef”
This little movie that came out of Hollywood is another testament of what can happen if negative reviews are used as popularity gauges. This is very dangerous as online reputation these days is largely based on your virtual popularity.
In the movie, a Chef’s reputation was completely destroyed with social media, and this can happen to any business that solicits social media approval.
Countering Negative Content
The first rule is not to fight back. Negative content can be disarmed but you need to identify if the person leaving it is indeed unhappy about a product or service that you provide or is just another Internet troll. Taking your troll to court is probably too far fetched unless you find a way to subpoena him or her.
You must first examine the negative content, be it in a blog post, twitter feed or a blogsite. This is very important as at this point, you will have to decide to engage the blogger who posted the content. In any business, there are so many ways to get a negative feedback. It could be a lapse in due diligence or a product failure.
After having establish this as fact, you can of course engage the person via his blog or your postings on social media. Accept the fact that you have done wrong and apologize. It is the best way out of social media flame war
If you feel that you have been wronged in some way, you can also choose to engage the customer directly by offering a refund or a replacement if that person came to the shop personally with the defective item.
The PR stunt here is have the person in the shop accepting the goods. This is a grand occasion for you to make good on something and this is how social media will work in your favor. Being humble about your mistake and making good on your service quality will create goodwill and that is the tip of the iceberg.
Engaging your customers socially with such content is a sure fire way to bring in more customers as it is free publicity for you. The Soviet era of having it your way or the highway in customer engagement is a death trap in the Internet age. So don’t do it.
Taking down a troll is easy but you have to prove they are acting erratically. If you find content that is disturbing, you can always tell the community owner to take it down. This can also happen in social media where trolls may post seemingly negative content on everything they touch. Cutting them off from their own social media community is the only step you need to take.
Free speech is a myth. Don’t you believe it exist on the Internet. This is where you also get to learn that leaving stinging reviews on your competitors is not a content strategy you can use lightly. It has consequences and will backfire once it is traced back to you.