Cyberbullying can affect businesses, too

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – The problem of cyberbullying is usually focused on people but businesses can be bullied online, too.

Using social media, people sometimes post hoaxes or negative reviews about local businesses. Business owners say that sometimes, those online comments have very real impacts.

“It can go viral. We had a positive post hit 31,000 in a week. That’s pretty amazing, that reach, but you could also have negative stuff go three times that,” said Christian Rinehart, CEO of Justice League Restaurant Group.

Five years ago, an Instagram user posted a photo of a dead baby mouse in some fried rice. She claimed it came from a mall food court restaurant.

“It targeted that particular business, named it and I’m sure, as I recall, there was a severe drop in sales for that business,” said Joe Bell, a representative of the Cafaro Company, which owns the mall.

It turned out that the same image had been copied all around the country — each time naming a different restaurant.

At Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts and Mission Taco in Boardman, Rinehart has also had to fend off attacks by cyberbullies. In one case, the bully lived 200 miles away and had never even been to Boardman.

“They had a run-in with an employee on a personal level and they wanted us to fire him,” Rinehart said. “They kept giving us one-star reviews every month.”

There isn’t much that businesses can do about the negativity. It can drag down a company’s online reputation and keep potential customers away.

“You can answer it in a comment, that’s about it,” Rinehart said. “Finally, we have had to block that person but that’s not what social media is meant for. It’s supposed to be open so you can have an open line of communication.”

Online rumors can take on a life of their own. In one Cafaro mall, a woman falsely claimed she wasn’t allowed to bring her service dog shopping.

“There were lots of nasty posts, saying they’d never shop at the mall again and it was all based on a lie,” Bell said.

Sometimes putting an end to the rumors isn’t so easy.

“If you issue a rebuttal, oddly enough, people don’t want to believe it,” Bell said.