An increasing number of UK beauty bloggers are being subjected to cease and desist notices; legal notices requiring them to take down a post that has been deemed to be defamatory in some way. Weirdly, it seems to be very small brands that take this stern stance and generally they are generated in the US. So a threat to hop over the pond from America to sue for ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ seems somewhat unlikely, as is the likelihood of a beauty blogger being able to pay such damages. It seems very much like a posturing stance, but it is enough to scare the living daylights out of bloggers who are expressing an opinion or viewpoint on a product.
But hang on, despite freedom of speech, you still need to be careful about what you say. Now that beauty blogging is such a huge entity, of course brands are taking far more notice than they used to. Collectively, we have a big impact and that can run two ways; good and bad. The ‘fun’ days of blogs being dismissed are well and truly over.
I don’t have any legal knowledge over above the very, very basics, but I do know it is a fine line between expressing a view and being slanderous. For example, you can say, ‘X Product really didn’t suit my skin and I won’t be buying it again’, or ‘in my view this doesn’t represent value for money and I didn’t like it’, but it is dangerous territory to say something that could impact on the brand’s reputation in a damaging way, such as ‘this product is filled with vile ingredients that will leave your skin in tatters’. The onus, in the event of a law suit, would be on you, the blogger to prove that this is the case, and wouldn’t be on the beauty brand to prove that it doesn’t.
It’s as well to always have a disclaimer on your beauty blog, stating that anything said is your own personal viewpoint, but this won’t protect you from publishing comments from blog readers that also could be read as legally slanderous. As editor of your own blog, its up to you to ensure that comments also don’t fall into slander territory; like any editor, the buck stops with you.
However, throwing out C&Ds left, right and centre is using a hammer to crack a nut. News of a C&D notice is far more likely to find its way to thousands of bloggers via Twitter, pretty well ensuring that everyone bands together and vetos that brand.
So far, I’ve yet to receive a C&D; some bloggers have received them via email with no back up paperwork whatsoever, which makes me wonder if they are literally just copied with intent to scare rather than sue. I did receive a request recently from a brand anxious for me to take a post that had received some negative comments down. I refused, but am considering taking the comments down. There are comments of good and bad in equal measure, so the whole lot will go, if indeed, I do take any down. It is claimed that the negative comments are from a competitive brand anxious to ruin the reputation of the posted brand. Bloody hell…suddenly, bloggers having a bit of a go seems nothing in comparison to the behind the scenes action of brands. And, I’m not issuing law suits connected to my ‘freedom speech’ or siding with one against the other.
Neither am I issuing suits to the glut of anons (who never are quite as anon as they think) who take it upon themselves to help me understand that I am selfish, scary, misinformed, rude and a bully amongst many other things (and that’s the edited version!).
Should we not just brace up a bit? Bloggers and brands – we’re all taking personal hits somewhere along the line. The same rule applies to both really; if you put yourself out there, you’ve got to expect some detractors. It’s just life.
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This is interesting. I tell you why I find it interesting.
Because I’m just little old me, if I hate a product and it’s full of yucky ingredients I think will destroy your hair. I’d want to say so. In the same way if I saw my friend in real life pick it up off the shelf in a shop I’d say “oh hang on, don’t buy that’s horrible and it’ll destroy your hair!” thats how I view my blog and my readers. Me talking to my mates about things I love and sometimes I don’t love. I also don’t like the idea of having to censor my opinions for fear of a brand taking legal action against me. If a product is crap, then it’s crap!
However, I’ve got a brain on my shoulders, I know you can’t just say anything about anything these days and as a result I do self censor, when what I want to say is “avoid at all costs” I find myself saying “this didn’t work for me but it might be ok for you”. I was doing this subconsciously and now I think about it I think I kind of resent it.
I don’t want to be sued though so I guess I’ll just keep doing it!
Wow, i had no idea this was happening, thankfully ive had no issues thus far.
This si quite irritating,I must say. I understand small companies have a lot to be lost and gained through blogger reviews, but really, they need to spend more time working on improving their products/service/PR than throwing out legal notices willy nilly.
In any case, if the post if particularly defamatory, who will believe it anyway? I don’t pay any attention to blogs who are hell bent on “taking down” any brand.
Cease and Desists are becoming jokes. You can only use something so many times without backing it up for people to be scared of them.
Hmm In the U.S. we have a statute would keep comments from creating liability for the blog owner… see http://www.chillingeffects.org/defamation/faq.cgi.
I’m not sure whether this exists in the UK.
I really like honest reviews… if someone doesn’t like the consistency of something, etc that really helps me. However, I generally will try the product(s) if they meet my pre-set criteria (I have VERY sensitive skin, try to avoid parabens, etc) regardless.
I agree 100% with Chloe… that time and energy could be spent improving their company. I would think of something like that as a PR opportunity. (IE… what would you suggest to improve my product instead of I’m going to sue you if you don’t stop sharing your opinion)
I know I would go back to a store if they took my feedback as constructive!
No one in the UK or the EU in general need take a bit of heed of a C&D from the US; different legal entities and all that.
We get this regularly from brands and people who Google themselves or their brand and don’t like a comment etc; we ignore them. We never hear another word, so bloggers, just refuse to be intimidated.
We do, however, rigorously delete comments from competitors who are obviously trying to influence discussions and I think that’s necessary if you want your site to be for consumers and full of genuine opinion. Which is of course the point of a blog.
I am sick to the back teeth of small brands to be honest; we’ve sort of informally adopted a stance that we’ll only deal with companies who’ve got that PR buffer – unfortunately it’s been my experience that most little brands are absolutely clueless as to how to behave both on-line and off and see blogs (and to some extent mags and newspapers) as god-given free services for advertising and get very angry or upset if you deviate from how they want you to present their product or service.
It’s often not worth it from a bloggers point of view to feature a small brand’s product when you’re then suddenly plunged into dealing with ridiculously hurt feelings/the brand spamming comments pretending to be readers who love the product/battling the spam from competitors who want to get the boot in.
I’d love to be flagging new and fab things from brands who need the exposure, but we’ve been burned too many times.
Sigh. The part of blogging I like the least.
I think people forget that the internet is a public place. yes, blogging is kind of like offering your opinion to your mates but never forget that anyone can read what you are putting out there.
It makes me cringe sometimes to read on Twitter about bloggers slating PR companies or brands for not inviting them to events or neglecting to send them samples. It’s embarrassing. OK so that’s off topic but the point I am making is that you never know who is reading your words.
I would imagine that less media savvy companies are scared of bloggers. This is the same old rubbish about a blogger being able to “break” a brand. There is nothing to censor a blogger once they have put their opinion down and pressed “publish”.
I don’t think that all reviews should be saccharine and sweet. But I do think that some people should think about what they say and perhaps what the ramifications might be, not just for themselves but for other bloggers too.
Companies are quick to react and whilst I definitely don’t want one, I’d certainly love to see what one of these C&Ds actually looks like. Surely better for the brand to contact the blogger and try and resolve things in an adult manner rather than threaten them with a gagging order?
I don’t think any of these companies have thought that most bloggers probably hate writing bad reviews. I know I do.
We take the time to blog because we are passionate about beauty and excited tell the world about something new. Writing a bad review means that we have ultimately wasted our money on something that doesn’t work.
I think your average consumer may try something and if they don’t like it will write off the brand as not being suitable for them. Bloggers on the other hand will keep trying to find something from that brand that works.
Being a parenting site that also does beauty reviews we’ve not quite got so far down this road. But I’m pretty horrified that brands think they can ‘bully’ people to stop telling the truth. Wasn’t this exactly why beauty blogs and any blogs which review products, places or events – really took off? Because we don’t have to give good reviews to something because our publisher says so? We either tell the truth or where is the point.
Of course there are ‘ways’ of doing this too – that’s common sense. Cease and Desist my a***!
Great post BBB x
Food for thought indeed, I am just starting out and will be sure to add a disclaimer and screen my comments now.
Useful advice thank you.
Wow is all I can say. Companies send products for a reason…to be reviewed! But if they’re bullying people into not giving an honest opinion, then the purchases people make on that company’s product will actually end up being lost because the people will most likely not be happy with it and not purchase again.
I completely agree with everyone above, great post!
These too-sensitive brands need to get a grip. Or take a leaf out of Marcia Kilgour’s book. When I gave her Fit Flops a less than flattering review (I said they were super-comfy but nothing in the looks dept), did she throw a strop? No, she left a comment thanking me for my feedback and offered some advice in return. Result? She turned a negative into a positive. See for yourself…
Be honest and factual!
This is just pathetic.
I sometimes, but only occasionally, comment on sites or blogs. When I do, I make sure that if my critique is negative, that it will be carefully formulated, not slanderous and constructive.
Honestly, what’s wrong with the companies? Are there really fake bloggers (company employees) who will post purposedly on blogs just to post negative comments, or are they simply afraid to admit that their products might not be as wonderful as they tell us to be?