Sometimes we receive notices from companies, individuals, and their lawyers who claim that false information about them has been posted on this website. These people often threaten to sue phonenumber-lookup.com for defamation and other claims unless the statements they do not like are removed.
If you are about to write us a threatening letter or even consider making a trip to your lawyer because you feel that someone posted false or inaccurate information about you or your company, please read this page. This page is intended to provide you with information that may help you better understand the situation and your rights, as well as the rights of the phonenumber-lookup.com users.
WHO IS phonenumber-lookup.COM?
phonenumber-lookup.com is a free reverse phone number lookup database built by its users. In other words, for the purpose of this section, phonenumber-lookup.com is an “interactive website” where the majority of the content is supplied by the community. And being an interactive computer service provider, we are not liable for the content posted by the users of the service.
We realize that it might be difficult to understand since the content you do not like appears on our website. But imagine that you want to post an ad on Graiglist, or send a tweet on Twitter, or leave a comment on your favorite news website. You go to the website, fill out the form, hit the submit button, and see a message: “Your submission is received and pending verification. Please be patient. It will be verified in the order in which it was received”. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? A website that allows users to contribute content cannot possibly verify the accuracy of all its user submissions.
phonenumber-lookup.com is a service provider, just like any website that allows user-generated content. We cannot possibly monitor the accuracy of the huge volume of information that our users choose to post and are not liable for the content we do not post.
This immunity is granted by the federal law called the Communications Decency Act or “CDA”, 47 U.S.C. § 230, which says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Because the content on phonenumber-lookup.com is authored by users of the site, we cannot be legally regarded as the “publisher or speaker” of the postings contained here, and hence we are not liable for the statements that others have written even if they contain false or inaccurate information.
The same law applies to sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Craigslist, and Wikipedia – users who post information on these sites are responsible for what they write, but the operators of the sites are not.
Here is a link that will help you understand the law:
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can write a polite rebuttal to the post. Just click the ‘Reply’ button at the bottom of the post and explain your side of the story.
Having a negative review does not mean your company is bad. It is the manner in which you choose to deal with your customers that will have the biggest impact on your reputation, so treat every feedback as an opportunity to show clients that you DO care about treating them well even when things go wrong. Of course, if you don’t care about making things right with your users, that’s something the public has a right to know.
If you know the statement is false, explain it in your response. Demand that the customer provide proof that they actually did business with you (by posting a copy of a receipt, etc.) If the poster cannot back up their claims, it will only prove that the claims are false and that you CARE.
Post the names and contact information for favorable references who can testify to the high quality of your business. Offer a link to any outside resources which provide positive information about you and your business.
“I need to have it removed because…”
If a posting contains private information such as a social security number, bank account details, or threats of violence, we will try to remove it. Please use the [ ! ] button to report abusive postings.
However, if a post contains information which you allege is false, we cannot simply remove information based on your request because doing so would place us in a position of having to determine which side is telling the truth. Because we cannot make such determinations, if you allege that a posting contains false and defamatory statements, you should pursue legal action against the author. You will need to file a law suit against anonymous speakers as Doe Defendants, and then use discovery to identify them.
If you think you have a strong case against the speakers, please note that courts throughout the country have developed a Doe procedure requiring you to make a showing of a reasonable basis to believe that you can succeed in a defamation claim against each poster. More on this later.
Freedom of Speech, User Privacy, And Defamation
First of all, it’s important to note that Unites States has a strong legal protection for the freedom of speech, and the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment.
However, the right to remain anonymous is NOT absolute. For example, the First Amendment does not protect statements which are false and defamatory.
Why it matters? Because we will not disclose personally identifying information just because you say the post is defamatory. We are not in a position to determine which party is telling the truth, so we cannot and will not dissolve the First Amendment rights of our users based on a unilateral allegation that something in a report is false. We are committed to protecting our user privacy and will only release information when required by law. A valid subpoena from a North Carolina court or governmental entity must be presented before any personally identifying information is disclosed. Also, you have to follow the “Dendrite” procedure, explained below, to be sure that the affected party is informed of the request so he/she can take steps to protect their privacy.
As soon as you have your subpoena, you MUST post a notice on the message board (“Reply” to each post for which you are seeking the author’s information). This notice must explain that you have initiated a court proceeding in an effort to learn the author’s identity, and it should provide a case number and name/address of the court so that the author can appear and defend the case if necessary.
phonenumber-lookup.com generally looks to see whether you have complied with the well-accepted “Dendrite” procedure or giving notice of the subpoena, identifying the allegedly defamatory words, making a factual and legal showing that you have good grounds to sue, and generally that you have shown that your interest in identifying your critics outweighs their First Amendment right to speak anonymously. If you do that, phonenumber-lookup.com generally leaves it to the anonymous defendants to seek to quash the subpoena, although it also reserves the right to object to subpoenas in appropriate circumstances.
More information about Internet Free Speech and the “Dendrite” procedure can be found at Public Citizen
A note regarding requests for IP address information, phonenumber-lookup.com does not retain such information indefinitely. Please contact us through the feedback form before obtaining a subpoena.
YOU ARE PROTECTED BUT I WILL SUE YOU ANYWAY
If you have read all of the above information and still want to file a lawsuit against us, there are some other points you need to know.
First, Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and each state court’s rules, generally require that all pleadings, including initial Complaints, must be presented in good faith, after a reasonable investigation into the facts and the law, and not made for an improper purpose such as harassment. What this means in plain English is that if you file a lawsuit which you know contains false claims, or if you sue without first conducting a reasonable investigation as to the law as it may pertain to the facts of your case, you and/or your attorney can be subject to serious sanctions at the judge’s discretion.
In addition to penalties a judge may issue, those who would threaten us need to be aware of another law which imposes civil liability on anyone who files a frivolous lawsuit. This claim is known as “wrongful use of civil proceedings” and it is defined by § 674 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts as follows: – he acts without probable cause, and primarily for a purpose other than that of securing the proper adjudication of the claim in which the proceedings are based, and except when they are ex parte, the proceedings have terminated in favor of the person against whom they are brought.
Because phonenumber-lookup.com is immune from liability under the CDA for defamation-based and related claims, any suit that seeks to impose liability for the speech of our users is, by definition, an action brought “without probable cause”. So if you knowingly file a frivolous lawsuit against us, regardless of where your case is filed, you and/or your lawyers can be subject to a lawsuit in North Carolina in which a jury could, if appropriate, award both substantial compensatory and punitive damages against you.
If you have a copyright infringement claim regarding any materials posted on our Website, please email it as an attachment to info @ phonenumber-lookup.com. Please note that if your DMCA notice fail to comply with all of the requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the text of which can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office Web Site, http://www.copyright.gov), it may not be valid.