Although the Internet via the World Wide Web has become an exciting way to conduct business and connect people from around the world, it has a dark side. The internet has a tendency to never forget information whether it’s true or not ! Unfortunately internet laws are such that anyone can post just about anything about anyone with little consequence. This is a problem that has become so prolific, both businesses and individuals alike are fighting to protect their online reputation as well as their livelihood.
If you have ever Binged, Googled, or Yahoo’ed your business name and found defamatory or inaccurate results showing up on the first page of search results, then you have your work cut out for you! The truth is this type of thing can happen to anyone and it is my sincere hope that this article will help folks out there tackle it in a systematic way. In some instances negative results can have far-reaching effects on the livelihood of business owners and individuals. We will go over a few methods and in the end I am confident you will have a better understanding of what needs to be done. These types of things take time to remove so please exercise patience.
Lets start with some easy things first. You might consider creating an alert to notify you when your business or name is referenced online. Two sites that come to mind are TextWalker Alerts or Google Alerts . Both services are free and similar to each other.
Next you will want to put some positive things out there to bury the negative results. Social sites typically have very high search rankings so if you have not already done so, please create a few different social media accounts. I highly recommend the following but feel free to add to the list: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Please register the same name your concerned with (either business or personal). Once completed you will want to add some positive posts and immediately to notify search engines of the new URL’s (Ex www.facebook.com/JohnDoe). It’s important to notify the search engines, otherwise it could weeks to show-up in search results. Please don’t forget to notify BING and Yahoo as they are respectable search engines that also appreciate your traffic. To notify BING click HERE and for Google click HERE.
Next you may want to send a request to the owner / webmaster of the website that has content you want removed. Start by browsing the website for any contact information you may find including a phone number or email address. If unsuccessful try looking up the website on WHOIS ICANN. Typically you will find a valid email but the address & phone number listed are from the web hosting company. Once you have a valid email send the webmaster a friendly request to remove the content and indicate how the post is adversely affecting you. Choosing your words carefully can prevent the same inaccurate information from popping up on another website. Prepare to offer something in return (such as promoting their products or services), send proof of your claim and keep your fingers crossed. You will want to have some patience and wait at least a few weeks. If this doesn’t work you could stop right here and hire a professional online reputation management company to help. If your still eager to try a few more things by all means continue reading.
Depending on the severity of the statements and whether the information is slanderous, you may consider hiring a criminal or lawyer that specializes in internet matters. A lawyer could help with obtaining a court order to have inaccurate information taken down and communicate directly with the owner/operators of the website. In the court order you may wish to name a specific person although this isn’t always an easy thing to determine. Start by visiting the website and searching for details such as an address, phone number and/or contact names. You could go undercover and make some phone calls to get a name. You can also search online for complaints against the company or website. Sites like The Better Business Bureau, RipOffReport.Com or PissedConsumer.Com may help you. If you have a lawyer they may be able to assist you in some way. The problem is that many of these websites do not post contact information and ownership info is typically hidden on during a lookup. Some of these companies are located in foreign countries. You will, however, find a valid email address you can use at a minimum. You can lookup lookup a websites ownership information at: WHOIS ICANN.
So would you like the good news or the bad news? The good news is you could always contact Google and ask them to remove the inaccurate information from their search engine results. This involves visiting one or both of the links below and navigating through a series of menus until you find their response. Unless your issue is related to a copyright infringement, taking down abusive images, or a E.U. request “Right to be Forgotten” it is doubtful any real changes will be made. There have been some link removal notices sent out to webmasters when a proper legal complaint is submitted for “defamation”. Please read through the following to educate yourself and I wish you the best of luck. Legal Removal Requests (with video). and Removing Content From Google.
Now for the bad news. You will find it VERY difficult in convincing Google to remove inaccurate content from their search engine results. Unless a specific law is broken usually no changes will be made for you. If you have a court order for removal of the content, your odds are “slightly” better but don’t get your hopes up. By the time it is all over with you will have an education in reality. If you are successful at obtaining and submitting a court order to, you will more than likely receive a standard response stating they are not the publisher of the material and cannot be held liable in any way. The truth is, they have a legal right to display all available content (whether it’s true or not) and that is where people should take issue. Please do some research on the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 230). As you read about the law I must admit it sounds fair, however, if your actually dealing with an issue that’s affecting your life, you will quickly see the law is written to protect Google. It gives complete immunity to search engines & makes it more difficult to remove false information. Below is an actual response from the search engine:
“Please note that Google is, in general, not the publisher of the webpages that appear in Google Search, and under 47 U.S.C. § 230 may not be treated as such. We encourage you to resolve any disputes directly with the owner of the website in question.
The problem arises when the owner of the website doesn’t respond or agree with your request. And trust me, this happens often.. It would simple for Google to send a request to the website owner and if no response is received, simply remove the defamatory remarks from its search results. Search results are modified each and every day, usually for paid advertisers and sites with high traffic. They also get moved up to the top of search results even if they are totally unrelated to the search of your business name. It’s a simple process but simply not an option (at this time). Some people say there’s just no money in making these corrections and that may be what it comes down to. Newspaper and News outlets work diligently to try and report the facts, even if they didn’t publish the original article. Companies that mass-distribute or make large amounts of information publicly available should do so with great care.
If all this seems like a lot to process then your right, it is ! When you have tried and exhausted all available options, I strongly urge you to utilize the services of a professional Online Reputation Management Company. These companies have quickly grown in popularity because of how difficult it is to remove unwanted content. And as you now know, internet laws are written to protect the search engines & web content owners. Reputation Management Companies have a way of magically making things disappear from the internet. And the good news is, once the information is removed from the underlying website database it also drops from Google Search results. Through personal experiences we can actually recommend one top-notch company to you: InternetReputation.Com (888-711-5426). They are professional, courteous and bottom line they get the job done ! Whether your issue is business or personal I want to wish you the best of luck and hope you take that first step and take control of your online reputation.
In closing, it would be logical to think…why I can’t just take my name out of Google search results, it’s my life right? Well you’re not alone and if you feel this way you should do something about it. In Europe and Argentina the courts have already made final rulings granting citizens the right to be forgotten from the search engines. There are a variety of legitimate reasons why people may want this and its a hot topic. This is a world where “freedom of expression” and your “right to privacy” are in direct conflict with each other. Bottom line we are individuals and we all care about when things are posted about us. One thing that is for sure, freedom of expression proponents, just like everyone else, appreciate their privacy. Lets be realistic, there has to be a limit and it should be up to the individual. It is far too easy to find personal details by a simple browser search. Our social security numbers and date of birth have long been compromised and are no longer secure. Companies like Lifelock are growing exponentially and with the recent Equifax hack of 143 million records we should seriously re-think things. If your privacy is import to you, then by all means email your state senator, start a petition and make a difference. Here are some details about your right to be forgotten: Click Here. Maybe one day US citizens will have the right to control their own privacy.