The remarks that follow are an excerpt from an article by avv. Francesca La Rocca published on the Magazine Industria Como dated December 2019 “Special General Assembly 2019”
Recently, there has been various episodes of web crisis in which some brands have been subject to negative comments or complaints on social networks due to wrong advertising campaigns or dissatisfied customers or posts or comments from top management which are considered offensive.
In some cases there has been a real public shaming which causes considerable damage worldwide to the brand reputation of the concerned enterprises.
This problem is not new to the business world but with the arrival of internet and the social network after, one has to be very careful.
It is very important for companies to adopt a strategy to combat damage reputation so as to limit damages.
Of course, an assessment of the damage has to be made on a case by case basis because in some cases a timely response is necessary to the complaint, whilst sometimes it is better not to take any position so that the news is forgetten.
In some cases however, the comments and complaints require legal action in order to ascertain the damage of the reputation of the enterprise and/or its trademark and in order to obtain an order to remove the harmful content.
At the beginning of this year the Tribunal of Rome has handed down a decision declaring that some comments posted on Facebook by a group of users was harmful to the reputation and pride of the Reti Televisive Italiane, which was heavily criticised for haing broadcasted a cartoon which some Facebook users thought was not adapt for youths because not cultural enough. In this case the Tribunal has recognized that the social network is responsible for the defamatory and disparaging comments ordering it to immediately remove such comments and sentencing it compensate damages.
More recently, there was an interesting decision issued by the European Court of Justice dated 3 October 2019 in a defamatory case which occurred online against a physical person, but has stated an important principle applicable also to legal entities.The European Court has indeed recognised that the order, by the judicial authority, to a host service provider (in this case Facebook), to remove the harmful comments and allegations to someone’s reputation may also include information which it stores, the content of which is identical to the conent of information which was previously decalred to be ulawful, irrespective of who requested the storage of that information. LIkewise the messages whose content remains basically the same with respect to the one that gave rise to the assessment of unlawfulness.
Moreover this is an important decision because a national Judge may order a host provider to remove information covered by the injunction worldwide within the framework of the relevant international law.
This decision clearly expresses principles that can be applied also to cases that do not involve physical persons but legal entities, allowing the latters to bring action before a national authority obtaining measures that have effect worldwide and not just limited to contents and posts that they were aware of at the time of the institution of the proceedings.
In this way, the protection of the reputation of brand images may be more efficiently ensured.