Handling Online Defamation & Stalking As A Female Entrepreneur.
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Many years ago, I left 'corporate American' (is there a term for that in Canada?) to work on my own. It wasn't out of a strong desire to work for myself. I was basically pushed out of the system after I spoke up about a senior partner of the company making multiple sexual advances on me. That was over 20 years ago before the internet was what it is today and women could not stand up for their rights. This awful moment in my career left me broken, and I knew I never wanted to work for someone again who had that kind of control over my destiny.
Fast forward 20 plus years and I've gone through all of the ups and downs of working for myself. Not always glamorous - often rewarding.
I've discovered that the internet is such a powerful tool for new entrepreneurs in the development of their business venture. So much information at your fingertips! I had to go to the library to get what I needed to build out my business models which made me competitive because not everyone was prepared to put in the hours and labour towards research and development. I always had an edge. So having access to answers instantly as an entrepreneur today makes moving forward in your dream a more accessible reality.
The downside that many people face, specifically women in business, is the vulnerability we are exposed to on the internet. Cyberbullying, stalking, trolling, and online defaming doesn't just affect individuals, it seriously affects businesses as well. I read an article published by American Express that is worth noting......
Writer/Author/Publisher/Speaker, Garden Guides Press-----
While you might think of the phenomenon as only affecting individuals, business cyberbullying is also a severe problem.
"Business cyberbullying can cause lost revenue, a decrease in employee morale and a downtick in a company's persona and prestige," says Greg Williams, a negotiating and body language expert and author of Negotiating With a Bully.
Ashley Black agrees. She's the inventor of the FasciaBlaster®, a self-treatment tool designed to lessen the look of cellulite and reduce pain.
"Business cyberbullying attacks can be professional and very sophisticated," she says. "Cyber 'trolls' can wreak havoc on a company by blindsiding it. They can create public confusion toward a business that can create serious issues for a brand." In Black's case, cyberbullies used Facebook to harass her and her company, including customers and family.
"The trollers not only made wild and false claims of injuries from my products," she recalls, "they anonymously reported these claims, posted on review sites and even harassed news outlets to pay attention to their untruthful claims. There was even stalking involved, which turned this into something frightening." ------
Over the last few years, as my Television show grew, and my online presence also grew, similar attacks like the one mentioned above by Ashley Black began occurring against myself and Health Wellness & Lifestyle TV. Defaming and untrue comments on reputation sites. Offensive content published on Facebook, Twitter, IG and Youtube. Attacks against my Women of Faith platform. My TV networks contacted and even threats to contact my children's schools. Multiple fake profiles made to contact me and continued the harassment through direct messaging.
(American Express) --- Fake reviews are also difficult, if not impossible to have removed, no matter how many complaints a business makes, adds Rachmany.
"Review platforms don't have the necessary tools for a rebuttal on behalf of the business. There's no real good system in place where a business can state why a review is unfair and should be taken down."
Black concurs, adding, "Fake reviews are difficult to remove, because review sites want to be neutral, even though it's false information.
"Businesses unfortunately cannot protect themselves from this type of illegal attack," she continues. "I believe there needs to be reform. Review sites need to allow for companies to prove that some reviews are false/fake and remove them."
Read advice from American Express about Protecting Your Business From Cyberbullying
Having your business reputation under attack is one thing, but things can turn ugly and scary when the attacks hit closer to home. I find that the most unnerving part of my work in being a public figure is the personal DMs sent to me. The worst encounters in the past came from men who showed interest in me sexually, and when they weren't getting responses from me, their efforts escalated. Being told by a stranger that they 'I will not be fu&*ing ignored' isn't the kind of attention any woman wants to attract. Our PR team does a great job in continuously monitoring all of my accounts before I see anything, which gives me peace of mind. I no longer have the stress of reading comments that ruin my day or create an underlying sense of anxiety. When the realities of the internet struck me 4 years ago, we immediately implemented systems in our company to have them managed. My job is to create an excellent Television show, not to be sucked into the vortex of the internet and social media. I'm lucky that I have team members surrounding me who have worked with me since day one of being an entrepreneur. They know what I'm like, who I am as a human, how I tick, and how they should shield me from the nonsense. Not all women have this in the beginning stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Part of what I'm going to do on this new site gives you tips, tools and ammunition in dealing with this area of business. It can be such an emotional leach that it's an area of your business model you must implement early in your buildout and know how to maintain.
I will disclose more of my journey in subsequent blogs and provide advice along the way. My biggest advice to you is to be strong. DO NOT let anyone take your power away from you. DO NOT lose sight of your prize. DO NOT get derailed. DO NOT manage this alone. DO NOT get emotional. DO reach out to women's business organizations and have a team providing you support, suggestions and feedback. We live in a new era with an ever-changing platform, and you can't possibly know how to manage it on our own. By staying connected to the right people, or better yet, employing them, you will stay ahead of the game in the crazy race of Women' Entrepreneurship.