How to defend honor, dignity and business reputation that were mortified by the dissemination of inaccurate information by an unknown person

With the development of media technologies, every Internet user has the ability to distribute information of any content. Such opportunities are often used with an unfair purpose to disseminate information that can cause harm to a natural or legal person. If such information is abusive, inaccurate or distorted, a person may defend their rights in court.Authors and individuals who distribute unchecked information or information that is intended to mortify the person's honor, dignity or business reputation, often try to avoid responsibility and make efforts to keep the details of the author and the owner of the web resource unidentified. The distribution of inaccurate information on the Internet anonymously or on the websites the owners of which can not be established lead to practically unlimited freedom of action and statements and greatly complicates the possibility of bringing such persons to justice.

However, the Resolution of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court of Ukraine of February 27, 2009 No. 1 "On judicial practice in cases related to defending the dignity and honor of an individual, as well as the business reputation of a natural person and a legal entity" provides that judicial protection of dignity, honor and business reputation as a result of the dissemination of inaccurate information about an individual is not excluded even if the person who disseminated such information is unknown (for example, sending anonymous or pseudonym letters or requests, the death of an individual or the liquidation of a legal entity, the dissemination of information on the Internet by a person whose identity can not be established, etc.). In such a case, the court may ascertain the fact of the untrue information and refute it in the order of separate proceedings on the application of the person concerned. In comparison with an adversary justice, the peculiarity of the protection of honor and dignity in the order of separate proceedings lies in the fact that the applicant must prove the fact of the dissemination of false information about him/her and provide the court with evidence of the falsehood of such information.

It is worth noting that the courts are reluctant to take the party of applicants in the category of cases related to the protection of honor, dignity and refutation of inaccurate information, as they refer to the constitutional right to freedom of thought and speech, to free expression of one’s views and beliefs, and so on. However, the task of the party whose rights are violated by the dissemination of inaccurate information is to persuade the court that the information disseminated is false or distorted and to prove that the applicant took all possible measures to establish the identity of a person who had disseminated the false information. Such a method of protection is less effective than a lawsuit when it is possible to oblige a particular person to refute or remove false information that has been disseminated by him/her. However, it is perhaps the only way of defending honor, dignity, and business reputation when it is impossible to identify individuals who have spread it. If the applicant proves that there are grounds for establishing the fact of the dissemination of untrue information, the court finds that the information disseminated is false and refutes it.