AN HONEST STATEMENT WITH FACTS. An honest story that is based upon facts, that complies with our Terms of Service, makes for a good Alert. Any Alert or subsequent posting to a Alert should be an honest and factual story. Using detailed information such as names, times, places will help paint a clear picture and you should be able to back up your story with evidence (witnesses statements, pictures, documents, etc.) even if you don’t post that information with the Alert…although adding such documents may lend more credibility than just explaining the story and it is encouraged.
VOID OF EMOTION. We know that if you have turned to Beware.org to tell your story about a situation gone bad, you are probably upset. Maybe justifiably very upset. However, an Alert or subsequent posting filled with nothing but word vomit fueled by negative emotion is not helpful to other readers nor is it necessarily going to be perceived as respectable or legitimate. For example, saying “Joe Schmoe’s company sucks and should be avoided” is neither informative nor respectable. Yes, everyone can tell that you are mad if you write something like that, but no one knows what caused you to be mad. There are a lot of colorful words in the dictionary, however, using the more “publicly appropriate” ones will likely lend more credibility to your Alert. Remember, the audience isn’t necessarily just adults.
PROPERLY CHOSEN WORDS. While we are here for you to tell the world your personal story, in your own words (don’t copy and paste other’s stories from other websites without prior permission – that could be considered copyright infringement), so as to warn others so they can make their own decision on whether or not they want to do business with the subject person or business, it is important to consider and chose your words wisely. True, opinions are protected free speech, however, far too many people mistake a statement of fact for being nothing more than opinion and then get into trouble later.
DEFAMATION IS NO LAUGHING MATTER. Defamation lawsuits are on the rise (just ask our Legal Department who sees all of the incoming inquiries) and, in our experience anyway, they are based on postings that people make when they are super upset or fail to take care when writing the Alert. Making up a story, or embellishing a story with skewed facts, to make someone look bad (ex-spouse, ex-partner, ex-employer, ex-business associate, competitor in the business space, etc.) may very well be legally actionable and the first time you think “I won’t get sued if I fudge this story” will be the first time you find out differently. It is NOT worth the risk! Even if you tell the truth, it is still possible that someone will say that you are lying and may try to bring a defamation action against you, so be sure to keep all documents and information relating to the situation as you may need it to mount a defense.
ONLINE HARASSMENT AND BULLYING IS NOT COOL. Again, if you came to HolySmoke.org wanting to post about something that has happened to you please keep in mind that airing “dirty laundry” on public websites like HolySmoke.org is not necessarily a good idea. Again, not only is the information not really helpful to consumers, it also could lead to criminal allegations against you for harassment, etc. and remember…this stuff, in this internet age, can follow you around forever. Would you want to explain what you are about to write to a loved one or potential business partner or employer in the future? Think about it. It’s okay to be mad…but choose your placement to vent those feelings wisely. Let’s keep the content to that of quality!
NOTE. HolySmoke.org staff, including the Legal Department, cannot give you advice on what you should write and whether or not the content might be deemed harassment and/or defamatory. If you are considering submitting an Alert at HolySmoke.org, and you are unsure of the content, you are encouraged to speak with an attorney in your area who may be in a better position to assist you. If you do not have an attorney, your local State Bar Association may be able to point you in the right direction.