In a rare intersection of search engine optimization and web community building, a blogger is facing a lawsuit from an SEO firm over comments left by visitors to his blog. The Wall Street Journal reports that SEOBook.com is being sued by a search engine optimization company, Traffic-Power. The firm alleges that defamatory comments were made and its trade secrets revealed in reader comments at SEOBook.
We won’t get into the merits of the allegations – more information about the alleged misdeeds of Traffic Power can be found at Traffic Power Sucks.
Our concern is with the concept of a company suing a community operator (be it blog, forum, wiki, review site, or other community type) over third party comments, and doing so without contacting the site owner and simply requesting that the content be removed.
Community builders rarely have the opportunity to scrutinize everything posted on their sites, much less conduct a fact-checking exercise. And, of course, even if they did, who is to say that a firm might disagree with the facts, or allege that the facts constitute trade secrets?
Web communities are vibrant entities and are a major driving force on today’s Web. Bloggers, forum operators, and other community builders surely hope that this suit gets tossed out of court before it has a chilling effect on all interactive sites.