MONOLITH LAW OFFICE+81-3-6262-3248Weekdays 10:00-18:00 JST



What Should Companies Do in Response to Online Backlash?


What Should Companies Do in Response to Online Backlash?

“Flaming” refers to a situation where “criticism floods the internet towards a specific target and becomes uncontrollable,” or “a state where bashing occurs on many blogs and bulletin boards as a result of discussions on a specific topic.”

The number of flaming incidents has increased dramatically since the spread of mobile and SNS began in 2011 (Heisei 23), with about 100 individuals and companies becoming the target of flaming each month.

Internet flaming that occurs in companies can potentially lead to negative outcomes in various aspects, including “boycotts by users” and “suspension of transactions from valued customers.”

So, what measures can a company take when it is subjected to flaming? Let’s explain in detail.

Three Types of Corporate Flame Wars

We will individually explain the three types of corporate flame wars classified by their forms.

When it affects sales and operations

There are cases where negative reviews about corporate activities or products can lead to a decrease in sales. For example, instances of part-time terror (cases where non-regular employees working at restaurants post on social media about their pranks using products) or employee behavior (cases where employees of hotels or real estate companies expose the privacy of celebrities or customers) can trigger a flame war. There may also be unfounded rumors about product defects (such as foreign objects mixed in the product) spreading on social media. In such cases, it can have a significant impact on sales and operations.

When it affects recruitment and hiring

There are cases where the number of applications for job postings drastically decreases due to negative reviews about the work environment or interpersonal relationships, such as “that company is a black company”. In the past, the only medium for job postings was the town page, but now it’s mostly smartphones and PCs. Almost all new graduates and job seekers are searching the internet for the names of the companies they are considering. It’s fair to say that there are no job postings that don’t use the internet, but articles posted by former employees or dissatisfied employees can have a negative impact and discourage applications.

When it becomes an obstacle to listing examinations

Articles and reputations on the internet such as “that company is violating laws and regulations” can become a major obstacle to listing examinations. When applying for a new listing, an audit firm may be brought in as an advisor for the listing examination. If the audit firm points out the company’s online reputation (social reputation and evaluation), immediate action must be taken.

Preparing for Corporate Online Backlash

If a business is experiencing negative effects on sales or recruitment through the internet, it can be considered that the company is suffering from reputational damage.

For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that sell a limited range of main products through e-commerce sites, a single instance of online backlash could potentially reduce product sales to almost zero. Nowadays, many users conduct online research before purchasing a product. If negative information appears in the first view (the range displayed first on the search results page) of a search engine, the likelihood of a decrease in purchase rate becomes extremely high.

Therefore, it is necessary to regularly monitor the first page of search results when searching for your company name or product name on search engines.

If a high proportion of your sales or recruitment depends on a specific site, you should pay close attention to the comments section of pages related to your company within that site.

Regarding job review sites, there are several major sites, and the site that appears first when searching by company name varies by company. Therefore, it is important to consider responses starting from the site that appears at the top.

In the case of SMEs and sole proprietors, there are many cases where offline interpersonal conflicts spill over online. Therefore, it is important to be careful in dealing with employees who are leaving and users.

The Reality of Online Backlash

It is necessary to understand the media of online backlash and the people who participate in it.

Media of Online Backlash

Many people think that anonymous bulletin boards like 5channel are prone to causing online backlash, but at present, the medium with the highest risk of online backlash is Twitter. Many cases involve online backlash spreading and becoming more widespread as summary blogs, anonymous bulletin boards, web media, etc., quote Twitter posts. The slander against the female professional wrestler Hana Kimura, who committed suicide, also took place on Twitter.

While blogs can also cause online backlash, it can be said that it often spreads and becomes more widespread when opinions are posted on Twitter. Twitter, by its nature, allows for words to be spilled out without much thought, making it a medium that is prone to spreading online backlash.

Recently, there has been an increase in cases where live broadcasts, videos, and images on YouTube and Instagram lead to online backlash. Sites related to videos and images are attracting attention on the internet media, and the number of online backlashes is increasing in proportion to this. In the future, caution will be needed for videos and images as well.

Participants in Online Backlash

Various survey results show that the participants in online backlash are a very small minority, less than a few percent of internet users.

It is better to know that the online backlash that is created in this way can be created if there are a few people. It is difficult to create online backlash alone, but it can be easily created if there are three people. In the case of SMEs, it is safe to assume that the perpetrators are a specific few. Online backlash created on summary sites and the like may seem like an unspecified number of people are criticizing, but when a request for disclosure of sender information is made and the sender is identified, it often turns out that there were only about three posters.

Handling Online Backlash

If your company is facing online backlash, how should you respond? If you make the wrong decision, you may further anger and frustrate general users, potentially adding fuel to the fire.

Stay Calm

While it’s common to panic in the face of online backlash, a calm response is crucial.

For instance, if your company’s account is under fire, hastily deleting the problematic post may be perceived by users as an attempt to “cover up” or “deceive”, which often accelerates the backlash.

Moreover, if your responses or statements are inconsistent and perceived as “insincere”, it may become impossible to regain control. Politician-like insincere responses such as “It seems there was a misunderstanding” can be fatal. It may be perceived as if you are defiantly saying, “It’s your fault for misunderstanding.”

Apologize After Deciding on a Policy

If the cause of the backlash lies with your side, you have no choice but to apologize. Do so sincerely and consistently, without saying anything unnecessary. However, even in such cases, it’s important to decide on the response strategy of apologizing as a company before executing it.

If you decide to counter-argue, it’s advisable to use external consultants like lawyers to ensure your judgment isn’t self-serving and your argument is sound.

When It’s Better to Ignore

If you can determine that there’s no impact on sales or recruitment, there may be cases where it’s better to ignore the situation. Unless you’re a large corporation or public institution operating on a national scale, ignoring the issue often leads to quicker resolution and less damage. Small and medium-sized businesses and individual proprietors, in particular, need to make careful judgments. It’s advisable to leave such decisions to the objective judgment of external consultants like lawyers.

Removing the Cause

If the cause or trigger of the backlash lies on external web pages, how can they be removed?

First, you need to distinguish whether the post is a “fact” or an individual’s “opinion”. If it’s a lie, it’s easier to remove, but it’s harder to request removal of personal opinions (such as poor staff service or unappetizing products).

However, for food review sites and social media, there’s another axis of judgment. If the post violates the “terms of use”, you can request removal and there’s a chance it will be accepted. Platforms like food review sites and Twitter form their value by fostering free speech, but if they have set their own terms of use and there’s a violation, it’s easier to make your case.

Each site has well-established rules, so if you can demonstrate that a post violates these rules, you can request its removal.

For job review sites, the criteria for whether a post can be removed or not lies in whether the post is factual and specific. Of course, these sites also have terms of use, so you can consider requesting removal for violations of these terms.[ja][ja]


With the proliferation of the internet, there has been an increase in ‘flaming’ incidents, where specific targets are inundated with criticism to the point of losing control.

Online flaming can negatively impact a company’s sales and recruitment, necessitating calm and swift measures. The judgement required varies depending on the individual case, and it can be complex. If handled incorrectly, the situation could worsen, leading to an uncontrollable major flame.

If you find yourself in a flaming situation, please consult with an experienced attorney promptly.

Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

The Editor in Chief: Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

An expert in IT-related legal affairs in Japan who established MONOLITH LAW OFFICE and serves as its managing attorney. Formerly an IT engineer, he has been involved in the management of IT companies. Served as legal counsel to more than 100 companies, ranging from top-tier organizations to seed-stage Startups.

Return to Top