Online harassment against a company often takes place in circumstances where at least one director feels harassed and distressed.
A company can be harassed but the harassment of a company happens in a different way to harassment of an individual. Harassment against a company may take one of two forms. It can either be against the company itself or against officers of the company.
Very often, when a company is being harassed, it is because someone is unhappy, or is disgruntled about their experience with the company. Usually the online harassment against the company takes the form of defamation where the company is being defamed on the internet with lies and some half truth against the company itself.
It is very difficult to harass a company without defaming it. The reason for this is that although every company is a legal personality, the company cannot feel harassed because it hasn't got the heart and the soul of a real person to feel distressed. You will therefore need, in most cases at least, to bring legal action for defamation rather than for harassment whenever lies are being used to harass the company online.
A company can bring legal action for harassment if one of his officers is being named as part of a harassment campaign, which has come about as a result of his or her work for the company.
It is possible to harass an officer of the company. For example, if there is a director of a company who is being targeted by name or by implication, the company can take legal action for harassment on behalf of the director.
In some cases of harassment against a company, the director might not be named, but it will be very clear that the words used in the online publications and the harassment campaign are directed at him or her. An example would be a small company with only one director.
Perhaps somewhat surprising, there are many large and even publicly listed company directors who are being harassed online. Often, the harassers believe that if they involve a top director with their grievance, their grievance will be resolved quicker in their favour.
The law that covers harassment against a company director is the same law that covers all types of harassment, which is the Protection from Harassment Act. However, there is also a specific section in the Companies Act, which is dedicated to the protection of company directors from harassment.
The idea is that no one should try and influence a company director’s decision by way of harassment. So, if an officer of your company is being harassed or even unfairly named on blogs or on a review website, in connection with lawful actions by the company, the director might be able to take legal action for harassment using the Companies Act.
We have taken legal action, on numerous occasions, against online harassers who targeted a company and/or the company directors. In some of these cases, the company in question was very substantial and even publicly listed. In other cases company directors who had been harassed have acted on behalf of smaller organisations, ranging from a few dozen employees to only two.