Keep clear of falling foul of the defame game

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It has long been said that everyone is a critic but in the 21st Century anybody’s views can be transmitted far and wide at the click of a button.

It should be the case that we are living in the Golden Age for consumers thanks to the seemingly endless channels available from which to vent the spleen.

Today, a tweet to the right person can result in a previously-difficult-to-solve, consumer complaint resolved in the time it takes to tap out 140 characters. Any company worth its salt enables its customers to give feedback relatively easily via its website and the business of online reviews is now a multi-million pound concern.

I don’t know anyone who books a holiday without making even a cursory reference to the forums which tell you which hotels serve cockroaches for breakfast and whether you are better off walking to Benidorm than flying with certain airlines. Personally my problem with such sites is that, rightly or wrongly, I always question the motivation behind the postings - good or bad.

A gushing review always makes me wonder what the author has compared that particular experience against. Do they have as many stamps in their passport as Michael Palin or do they visit the hotel they rave about every year without fail.

As for a stinking appraisal, you have got to question what the state of mind of the writer is when they are pouring scorn on the subject of their ire. If I am hot under the collar about something I am not got going to commit my thoughts immediately to paper or, in this case, the laptop.

As much as I champion the right to free speech, I am staggered by the downright stupidity of some who merrily insult, defame or in some cases blaspheme through their online rants. It is unrealistic to expect every citizen to fully understand the laws of libel but more needs to be done to inform the people what sort of thing is and isn’t acceptable to include in a posting. Maybe a prominent note reminding the author they must adhere to the basic laws of libel when telling the world their tale of woe might not go amiss.

Also a bit of knowledge might go the other way and empower some who were otherwise reticent to chronicle an unhappy experience at the hand of a business and go for broke, safe in the knowledge they won’t be sued. If everyone is going to be a published critic, then at least we should all be armed with the knowledge of how to do it safely.